At a ceremony for the 95th Benedict XVI’s birthday on June 18, his private secretary was moved to tears by evoking the declining health of the pope emeritus, and the memory of some significant discussions with him.
The scene was particularly moving. In front of a crowd gathered on June 18 at Nymphenburg Palace in Munich to celebrate the 95th birthday of Benedict XVI (born April 16), his private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, gave a speech lasting a few minutes. When discussing the state of health of the pope emeritus and some striking memories, the prelate could not hold back his tears.
“I would never have believed that the last part of the way between the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery and the gate of heaven of Saint Peter… [ le prélat, inclinant son visage, s’arrête plusieurs secondes et peine à cacher l’émotion qui le submerge… ] And Saint Peter’s gate of heaven would be so long,” he whispers in a quavering voice.
“The last few years have gotten the better of his strengths”
And to continue taking out his handkerchief: “This is what Benedict XVI confided to me…. [ il s’arrête de nouveau un moment, avant de reprendre ] … When we talked about the weight and the distress of old age and the recurring criticisms against his person and his action. It was a few years ago. Even after his resignation, Benedict XVI responded frankly and convincingly to the important questions and challenges of the time, always in the light of the Incarnation. And that was characteristic of him. It was there that he felt challenged. It’s a requirement that he mastered brilliantly, willy-nilly, facing all the onslaught of the world until the most recent days. The supreme pastoral ministry was not only a burden for him, but also a joy to the soul. And this joy of the soul, he preserved it – beyond all the distresses and disappointments. She is like a light that accompanies her internally. »
Then the tears come back to him when he speaks more specifically of the failing health of Benedict XVI: “In the meantime, the pope emeritus… [ l’archevêque tente tant bien que mal de retenir ses sanglots et laisse s’écouler quelques secondes de silence ] …has grown into a very old man, physically frail, but whose mind and gaze are, thank God, still just as awake and bright. Even if his voice is increasingly weak and incomprehensible. The last few years have gotten the better of his strength. But despite his declining strength, he retained the humble serenity of his heart. As it once manifested itself perhaps most clearly in front of the whole world in the moments when it answered children’s questions, always in a completely free and refreshing way. »
He concludes by saluting the humor and gentleness of this papal figure whom he knows and particularly admires: “His unalterable humor, enveloped in his personal sweetness which has always been the hallmark of his personality, is also very present. He rejoiced like a child when he was told about today’s ceremony. And he asked me to send you all warm blessings. »
This is not the first time that Archbishop Georg Gansweïn has shown himself to be very moved in public. Already during the funeral of Benedict XVI’s brother in 2020, he had read in a trembling voice the letter that the pope emeritus addressed to this deceased brother.