VATICAN CITY (CNS)
Georg Ganswein, retired Pope Benedict XVI's longtime personal secretary,
said a story about the pope resigning after a "mystical experience" was
"It was invented from alpha to omega," the archbishop said Aug. 24 in an
interview on Italy's Canale 5 television news. "There is nothing true
in the article."
In a report Aug. 19, the Italian service of Zenit, a Catholic news
agency, said someone who had visited Pope Benedict "a few weeks ago" had
asked him why he resigned. "God told me to," the retired pope was
quoted as responding before "immediately clarifying that it was not any
kind of apparition of phenomenon of that kind, but rather 'a mystical
experience' in which the Lord gave rise in his heart to an 'absolute
desire' to remain alone with him in prayer."
When Pope Benedict announced his resignation in February, he said he had
done so after intense prayer and that he intended to live the rest of
his life praying and studying.
Some Vatican officials and Vatican watchers were surprised by Zenit's
report of Pope Benedict telling an anonymous visitor that his decision
was the result of some form of extraordinary "mystical experience"
rather than a decision made after long and careful thought and deep
prayer. Catholics traditionally would consider that kind of intense
prayer a "mystical experience," although not something extraordinary.
Explaining his decision to resign to a group of cardinals Feb. 11, Pope
Benedict had said: "After having repeatedly examined my conscience
before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an
advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the
He also told the cardinals that he wanted to dedicate the rest of his life to serving the church through his prayers.
Since stepping down Feb. 28, retired Pope Benedict has led a very quiet
life, far from the public eye, although he did accept Pope Francis'
invitation to be present July 5 for the dedication of a statue in the
Living in a remodeled monastery in the Vatican Gardens, along with
Archbishop Ganswein and four consecrated laywomen, he occasionally
welcomes visitors, especially friends, former students and small groups
accompanying former students. The meetings are private and rarely
reported in the news.