Former Pope Benedict XVI has distanced himself from a book on the marriage ban for priests. At the instruction of the pope emeritus, he asked editor Cardinal Robert Sarah "to ask the publisher to remove the name of Benedict XVI from the book cover," said his private secretary Georg Gänswein of the Italian news agency Ansa. The same applies to Benedikt's signature under the introduction and closing word of the book.
The French newspaper Le Figaro published excerpts from the book From the depths of our hearts on Sunday in advance. Benedict's successor Francis is warned against softening celibacy for Catholic priests. Vatican experts expressed suspicion that ultra-conservative clergymen in the Vatican may want to use the 92-year-old former pope for their purposes. After his resignation in 2013, Benedikt had completely withdrawn from the public.
Sarah, on the other hand, had resisted "extraordinarily serious slander" for manipulating Benedict. He published an exchange of letters with the former German pontiff. He later announced that the title should now only be: "With a contribution from Benedict XVI."
Private secretary speaks of misunderstanding
The 92-year-old Benedikt knew about the book project of the Guinea Cardinal from Guinea and gave Sarah one of his texts on celibacy for free use, said Gänswein further. In no case did he agree to co-authorship, nor was he informed about the layout of the planned book. Gänswein spoke of a "misunderstanding" which, however, did not call into question the "good intentions of Cardinal Sarah".
Pope Francis is currently examining whether clergy should be allowed to clergy in certain areas of the Amazon where there is a great shortage of priests. He is expected to announce his decision in the next few weeks. At a synod in Rome in October, bishops called on the pope to open the priesthood to married men in the Amazon region.
Pope Francis responded to the publication of the excerpts on Monday with a general commitment to celibacy. However, there could be exceptions for Catholic pastors in particularly remote parts of the world, he said via a spokesman.