Archbishop Gaenswein: Thread of diplomacy links Benedict, Francis

Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, prefect of the Papal Household, speaks to the press June 5, 2014. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

In a recent interview with CNA, the prefect of the Papal Household and personal secretary to Benedict XVI recounted how the current and emeritus Bishops of Rome are connected by their diplomacy during apostolic journeys.

Archbishop Georg Gaenswein was at the June 5 conference “The Pope's journeys: between diplomacy and communication,” held at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, and noted what is common to Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, even though their diplomacy has been interpreted according to their differing characters.

The conference was an occasion for presenting “Sull'aereo di Papa Benedetto,” a recent work by Italian journalist Angela Ambrogetti, which gathers Benedict's press conferences on the papal plane during his pontificate.

“When the Pope makes an apostolic journey, it is clear that diplomacy plays a key role, with regards to both words and gestures,” Archbishop Gaenswein said, calling diplomacy a “thread” in Benedict XVI's pontificate.

He stressed the importance of the five so-called ‘political speeches’ Benedict XVI held during his apostolic journeys, in front of the representatives of the world of culture and politics. He added that through these speeches, one can better understand the Bavarian's diplomatic sense – even if the sense of his words was rarely understood.

“In the beginning, it was always surprising to me how different were the newspaper reports about the same speeches,” Archbishop Gaenswein underscored.

While Benedict XVI was subjected “to several prejudices directed against him as the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” he noted, Pope Francis “gained the trust of journalists” from the time he first spoke on the loggia of St. Peter's.

“I myself must take into account that Benedict has been considered ‘the Pope of the word,’ while Pope Francis is considered ‘the Pope of gestures,’” Archbishop Gaenswein added. “Pope Francis has made very eloquent and surprising gestures."

The latest of these was his call to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli president Shimon Peres for a prayer for peace in the Holy Land held in the Vatican Gardens.

“Pope Francis invited the two leaders to the Vatican, to his home, to pray for peace, and this explains the inner meaning of his call: prayer is stronger than diplomacy,” Archbishop Gaenswein said. “As Pope Francis has explained, his gestures are not planned; he is struck by the Spirit. This is his character, and I see this every day, working with him, accompanying him, listening to him, speaking with him.”

This is “Pope Francis’ 'forma mentis,' or 'way of thinking,' since gestures are very significant for him, and this distinguishes him from Benedict XVI, being a man of thought. In fact, even if Benedict XVI often spoke off the cuff, he was always prepared: this is his own 'forma mentis.'”


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October 25, 2014

  • Saturday, October 25

    World Apostolate of Fatima Conference, 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m. (noon Mass, Bishop Alexander Salazar presiding), Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 555 W. Temple St., L.A. (310) 890-7912.

    Our Lady of the Angels Region Congress, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., St. Mary’s Academy, Inglewood; $. (310) 216-9587.

    “Sing to the Lord!” formation day for music ministers, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Mary Star of the Sea Church, 463 W. Pleasant Valley Rd., Oxnard; $. (805) 469-6293.

     “Ethical Care at the End of Life,” seminar addressing end-of-life issues, 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Our Lady of the Assumption Church, 3175 Telegraph Ave., Ventura. (805) 642-6403.

    Holiday Boutique, to support Little Sisters of the Poor, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Jeanne Jugan Residence, 2100 S. Western Ave., San Pedro. (310) 548-0625.

    St. Pius-St. Matthias Academy Open House, 10 a.m., 7851 E. Gardendale St., Downey. (562) 861-2271.

    Requiem Mass, for children lost to miscarriage and stillbirth, 10 a.m., St. Therese Church, 510 N. El Molino St., Alhambra. (626) 733-2297.

     “Mission Music,” with De Angelis Vocal Ensemble, 2 p.m., Mission San Juan Capistrano Basilica, 31520 Camino Capistrano,; $. [714] 928-9567.

    St. Philip the Apostle School Fall Festival, 2-10 p.m., 161 S. Hill Ave., Pasadena. (626) 795-9691.

    “Touch & Heal,” Cathedral Chapel  benefit concert, 4:30 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. concert, Bishop Conaty-Our Lady of Loretto HS, 2900 W. Pico Blvd. Los Angeles; $. (323) 930-5976.

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