Welcome to Starting Seven, The Pillar’s daily newsletter.
I’m Luke Coppen and I seek to guide you each weekday morning to the most interesting Catholic news and comment.
😇 Today’s feast: St. Gregory of Nyssa.
📜 Today’s readings: Heb 2:5-12 ▪ Ps 8:2ab & 5, 6-7, 8-9 ▪ Mk 1:21-28.
🗞 Starting seven
6: Paulina Guzik explains why Poles loved German pope Benedict XVI.
🇻🇦 Today’s Bollettino
Papal audiences for Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni; Archbishop Rino Fisichella, Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery for Evangelization; Participants in the “Rome call” meeting promoted by the Pontifical Academy for life and RenAIssance Foundation (full text).
🧐 Look closer
Moment of truth Vatican officials may pop off discreetly to the bookstore on Jan. 12, the publication date of “Nient’altro che la verità” (“Nothing but the truth”), Archbishop Georg Gänswein’s controversial new account of his life with Benedict XVI.
According to the publisher Edizioni Piemme, the book aims to set the record straight about “the blatant calumnies and dark maneuvers that have tried in vain to cast shadows on the German pontiff’s magisterium and actions, and thus to finally make known the true face of one of the greatest protagonists of recent decades, too often unjustly denigrated by critics as Panzerkardinal or ‘God’s Rottweiler.’”
The book’s appearance, a week after Benedict XVI’s funeral, has set the Vatican on edge. Intrigue reached new heights on Monday, when Pope Francis summoned the German archbishop to a private audience.
What’s inside? The book’s contents have been widely trailed ahead of its publication. Its disclosures include Benedict XVI’s dismay at Pope Francis’ crackdown on the Traditional Latin Mass, the pope emeritus’ puzzlement at the use of footnotes in Amoris laetitia, his surprise at the lack of a response to the four cardinals’ “dubia,” and his thoughts on Francis’ blockbuster 2013 interview “A big heart open to God.”
Archbishop Gänswein also addresses Pope Francis’ decision to change his duties in 2020 after a dispute over a book containing an essay by Benedict.
“Printing previously secret letters between the two popes and relaying private conversations with both, Gaenswein revealed that Francis even refused entreaties from Benedict to take him back on,” reported AP’s Nicole Winfield. “Embittered, Gaenswein described Francis as insincere, illogical and sarcastic in deciding his fate, and said Benedict even made fun of Francis when told of the decision.”
What are people saying? Pope Francis’ biographer Austen Ivereigh suggested that Archbishop Gänswein was “making public what [Benedict] intended to be *private* documents and comments.”
“These disclosures undermine Benedict’s oath of loyalty to Francis, which Benedict stuck to rigorously; violate Gänswein’s duty of confidentiality to both B and F while in a sensitive curial role; and encourage those who seek wrongly to set Benedict’s legacy against Francis,” he wrote on Twitter.
His comments were picked up by the Italian newspaper Domani — in a report headlined “Pope calls Msgr. Gänswein to account. Ratzinger’s former secretary increasingly isolated” — which was in turn highlighted in a press roundup by La Civiltà Cattolica, the Jesuit periodical published in Rome and vetted by the Vatican Secretariat of State.
Italian media have speculated that the book is the first step in a conspiracy to force Pope Francis’ resignation. That was the thesis advanced by Gianluigi Nuzzi in La Stampa on Jan. 8 and echoed in the Domani article, which referred to an “Operation Gänswein.”
The Corriere della Sera said that Archbishop Gänswein’s friends reported that he was upset at “malicious” interpretations of “out-of-context” excerpts from the book but had resolved to “be quiet.”
What’s next? Conjecture is swirling about the 66-year-old German archbishop’s future. He served as Benedict XVI’s personal secretary from 2003 and has held the post of prefect of the Prefecture of the Papal Household since 2012.
Corriere della Sera said that possible assignments included leading a diocese in Germany, “a diplomatic post in a nunciature abroad, or a Roman arrangement, possibly discreet.”
If that happened, Archbishop Gänswein would be following a similar trajectory to Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, who was John Paul II’s personal secretary until the Polish pope’s death in 2005 and soon after named archbishop of Kraków. But Pope Francis may have other plans.
🔍 Stories to watch
🇹🇷 Modern Turkey’s first new church is due to open in two months.
🇲🇿 Insurgents linked to Islamic State have claimed responsibility for a recent attack on two Christian villages in northern Mozambique.
📅 Coming soon
Jan. 14 Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco turns 80.
Feb. 3 Cardinal Domenico Calcagno turns 80.
Feb. 5 Europe’s continental synodal assembly begins in Prague.
Have a very happy feast of St. Gregory of Nyssa.
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