VATICAN CITY (AP) — Retired Pope Benedict XVI’s second secretary came out with a new memoir Thursday, a light, photo-filled daily journal that contrasts sharply with the blistering tell-all book published last month by the German pope’s late chief aide. Is.
“My Days with Benedict XVI” by Archbishop Alfred Zureb is the latest book to hit Italian bookshelves after Benedict’s death on December 31. It was launched at a semi-official Vatican event on Thursday, along with another book by the longtime Vatican reporter, “The Resignation: I Didn’t Flee”.
The two new publications served to blunt the negative criticism of Francis that erupted in the weeks following the death of the first “pope emeritus” by focusing on Benedict himself.
Pope Francis recently acknowledged that Benedict’s death was a “tool” by conservatives to bolster the idea of competing papal camps, according to books published by Benedict’s longtime secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, and some conservative cardinals. In the context of interviews and memos that were highly critical. Of the reigning Pope.
Zereb was Benedict’s “second secretary” during his 2005–2013 papacy, and remained as Francis’ secretary for the first months of his papacy. Francis placed Zureb in his new economy ministry before making him ambassador to Korea and Mongolia, where Francis is expected to visit the pope for the first time later this year.
All of which suggests that Zereb remained on excellent terms with both Benedict and Francis, as his memoir “My Days with Benedict XVI” makes clear. The book reads as a daily journal, recounting Benedict’s travels, audiences, intimate lunches and jokes, as well as the tearful moments surrounding his historic resignation. But it ends when Zureb bids Benedict farewell a few weeks after his retirement, and makes some comments about the current archbishop.
The same cannot be said for “Nothing But the Truth: My Life Beside Pope Benedict XVI” by Ganswein, which also chronicled Benedict’s papacy but for his 10-year retirement and Ganswein’s not-so-easy relationship with Francis. Many chapters were not dedicated.
The Zureb book launch Thursday suggested his Benedict is the memoir the Vatican wants to promote: Held in the Vatican media’s press conference room, the launch was attended by the hierarchy of the Vatican communications office and covered by Vatican media. The book has a foreword by Rev. Federico Lombardi, a former Vatican spokesman.
Zereb, who participated via video conference from Seoul, was asked about Francis’ recent comments that the head of Benedict’s death was “instrumented” by critics of the current Pontificate.
“I agree, unfortunately,” Zureb said without elaborating.
In an indiscretion, he confirmed that Benedict had indeed suffered from sleep problems, although he said that he had never heard him complain of insomnia. More recently, Benedict’s biographer stated that chronic, years-long insomnia was the primary reason behind his 2013 resignation.
“We didn’t hear him talk about it with us, but we knew he had problems sleeping,” Zereb said. He recalled the Pope’s 2012 visit to Mexico, when Benedict fell during the night and hit his head. This episode was later cited as one of the reasons Benedict resigned, believing that global travel was a pre-requisite for any pope and that he was no longer up to the task.
“I remember that night in Mexico, he couldn’t sleep at all,” Zereb said.
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