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Why I Love New Media: An Interview With Benedict’s Personal Assistant

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From The Cafeteria Is Closed:

Father Georg Gaenswein (a monsignor) is Pope Benedict’s personal assistant. He gave an interview to the German (Munich) newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung. I have translated it. The interviewer was Peter Seewald, who was a lapsed Catholic, spent a couple of weeks with Pope Benedict (then cardinal) and returned to the Church. I spent all night writing this exclusive English translation – reading, translating and typing at the same time. Still took hours. It is one of the most interesting insider interviews you’ll come across.

The opening of the translation:

Peter Seewald (PS): Herr Praelat, how is the Pope ?

Msgr. Gaenswein (MG): He’s well, feels very good, works a lot and is in “high gear”.

PS: Does he use the exercise bike that his physician, Dr. Buzzonetti, told him to

MG: The bike is in our Appartamento Privato.

PS: What does that mean ?

MG: It’s being a good bike, ready to be used.

Another reason to love the Pope. Here’s some of the substance:

PS: The Pope writes all important texts himself, including the speech in Regensburg with the controversial quote from a historical book on a dispute with Muslims. Why did nobody edit the text?

MG: I find the Regensburg speech, as it was given, to be prophetic.

PS: Was the shock great when the angry attacks from the Islamic world became known ?

MG: We only heard of the crude reactions after we’d gotten back to Rome from Bavaria. It was a big surprise, to the Pope as well. The mighty trouble had started due to newspaper reports which had taken one quote out of context and presented it as the Pope’s personal opinion.

PS: In Islam, where it is in charge of state and society, human rights are being constantly violated. (“kicked with feet”) The persecution of Christians has increased drastically. The President of Iran announced again that the countdown to the destruction of Israel had begun. Is the condept of a real dialog with Islam not a bit too naive?

MG: The attempts at Islamization of the West cannot be put aside. The danger for the identity of Europe that is connected to it must not be ignored for reasons of a wrongly understood respect. The Catholic sides sees it very clearly and talks about it. Especially the Regensburg speech should counter a certain naivete (“blue-eyedness”). One thing has to be pointed out – there is no Islam as such, no voice that ties all Muslims together and leads them. There are many different currents, often at war with each other, up to extremists that claim the Koran for their actions and go to work with guns. On an institutional level, he Holy See tries to make contacts and lead dialogs via the Papal Council for Interreligious Dialog.

Read the whole thing, and thanks to CIC for the hard work of translation. Novelists looking for an idea, focus on this:

PS: Was there some kind of introductory training, like a school for Papal etiquette ?

MG: Not at all. The only thing there was was a private conversation with my predecessor, Monsignore Stanislaus Dziwisz, the current Cardinal-Archbishop of Krakow. That was about two weeks after the Conclave and the move into the Appartamento. He handed me an envelope containing some papers and a key for a safe. An ancient safe, German precision work. He only said, “You now have a very important, very beautiful but also a very, very difficult task. The only thing I can tell you is that the Pope must not be “suffocated” by nothing and no one. How to go about that, you have to find out for yourself.” Period, the end. More he didn’t say. That was the entire school for Papal etiquette.

PS: And what was in the envelope?

MG: That I won’t tell you. They are things that are given from Papal Secretary to Papal Secretary.


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