From Benodette the following interview in

Gnswein Interview

I do it for him

Georg Gaenswein (51), the Popes private secretary, is spending his short summer vacation in the Black Forest. In Riedern am Wald (Waldhut district), the Monsignore spoke with Suedkurier editors Uli Fricker and Thomas Arzner in his parents living room.

Monsignore Gaenswein, youve been in your parents home for a few days. How are you doing?

Ive been here for eight days and I already feel myself quite recovered, I go out in the fresh air every day. Today its a bit rainy and cloudy, but in any event the daily activity does me good

Were talking to someone who is heart and soul from South Baden?

Of course. It would be silly to deny it.

How many days of vacation does the Popes private secretary take?

Theres no fixed number. Its a good two weeks in the summer, and Ive already taken one. In August the temperature of work in the Vatican drops.

Youve been in your post for two years and youre always at the Popes side. Have you ever had any regrets?

No, Ive never had any regrets.

You once described this field of work this way: It is a service, a service to the Lord and to the Church. How does it fit with your ambition?

If you mean by ambition mastering a certain task well, then I am ambitious. But its the wrong word; determination fits better. To approach things with determination, yes, I do that. Because you can only master the gigantic scope of work if you have a clear goal and divide up your time well. Otherwise it leads to chaos.

Your boss once saw Cardinal Faulhaber from Munich, who was visiting his village. Then the little boy Joseph Ratzinger decided: One day I want to wear red and also become a cardinal. Did that happen to you too?

No. I dont have this childhood experience in common with the Holy Father.

Keyword Munich. In the spring a newspaper identified you as the prospective archbishop of Munich-Freising. Does that speculation annoy you?

Not any more. As you correctly note, theyre speculations on speculations: inventions of fantasy-filled journalists.

This probably interests women more than men: when did you decide to become a priest?

My decision to enter the priests seminary happened at the beginning of the last, the 13th grade of the gymnasium/

You were then 17 years old.

I was 18 already; I already had my drivers license. The final decision to become a priest happened some years later in the course of my free semester in Rome at the Papal Gregorian University.

Suedkurier Photo: Huber

Magazines like to describe you as Sunnyboy in a Soutane, or compare you to George Clooney. Does such a comparison amuse you or is it unnerving?

When I first heard about it, of course I was a little surprised. At the time I didnt know George Clooney at all and only then found out who he is.

Do you know any of his films?

No, a favorable opportunity hasnt come up.

George Clooney is worthwhile.

Good, then you can send me a Clooney-DVD!

Actually, a film with Clooney also plays at the cinema . . .

(grinning) In Italy as well? But for me a visit to the movies isnt that simple.

Because youre so well known?

My private life is quite limited. That is one of the costs of my assignment.

Can you still go for a quick espresso in Rome?

Drink a good cup of coffee with a friend [in a cafe] on the corner? That is entirely impossible.

Do you miss it? That as a German Roman who knows the best coffee bars. Dont you lose some of the quality of life?

(thoughtfully) I admit it: I had to get used to it. After ten years of uninhibited experience with the cappuccino or espresso-bar on the corner, a different reality has now moved in the foreground. Ive already come to accept it.

You lost your protective anonymity. Was that difficult?

I adjusted to it and now its part of my life. Theres also no point to be bothered by something that cant be changed.

How is the Pope doing?

Well. I accompanied him on his vacation in the Italian Dolomites. The stay in the wonderful mountain region was good for him. A healthy mixture of relaxation, recuperation, work.

Working on documents even while on vacation?

Your question sounds so dramatic: no, its not so bad. Of course work doesnt simply stop during holidays. You have to maintain contact with the Vatican. Important messages and decisions have to be communicated, news has to be shared. The Holy Father received the Cardinal Secretary of State and one morning long worked hard.

Does the Pope write emails?

I do it for him

Does Benedict XVI use a PC?

The Holy Father prefers non-electronic writing instruments to the PC: pencil, ballpoint or fountain pen.

Thats like before

. . . classical in a manner of speaking.

With these tools he also put his book Jesus of Nazareth on paper. Its enjoying a great success in Germany too. Have you read it already?

Yes, for the second time. It is a spiritual legacy of a man who has grappled with Jesus throughout his whole life as a priest, as a professor, as archbishop and Cardinal Prefect, and now as Pope. He draws upon the sum of his life, and sets down a confession [of faith]. Readers will be much encouraged and strengthened in their faith by this book.

The Regensburg speech was the speech with the greatest worldwide echo. Some Muslims reacted indignantly. Since this experience do you look at the papal speeches beforehand?

(seriously) Naturally, the Pope takes reactions to his speeches into account, and ponders, separates the wheat from the chaff. But he doesnt let himself be hemmed in, because someone doesnt agree with this or that statement or heavily criticizes it. Many who remain silent, who do not announce themselves with public bluster, are grateful for his clear, trailblazing words.

Are other departments of the Catholic Curia involved with papal pronouncements?

The Pope usually writes speeches, homilies and lengthy texts himself. When necessary, individual components are provided or suggestions are compiled. But he is the architect of the text.

Is this impression deceptive? The Catholic Church these days is strongly concerned with her past, the main concept being the Latin Mass.

Our faith lives from her roots; the Church has to take care of them, that belongs to her foundations. Your question probably aims at the most recent motu proprio about the Tridentine Mass. With this document, a spiritual home has been given again in the Church to those who in the course of the liturgical reform after the Second Vatican Council saw themselves as uprooted and made homeless. The letter was in principle well accepted.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith recently made a document public that caused criticism and displeasure.

The Congregation said nothing new, but only called to mind what was valid and existed. The document was an answer to a few questions about the understanding of the Church. Based on texts of the Council and other teaching documents, it reasoned understandably and clearly. That can only be helpful. Each dialogue needs clear positions, and thats why there are Roman competencies.

How are Germans regarded in the Vatican?

The election of Pope Benedict certainly increased the prestige of our country.

And you too are our man in Rome.

(laughs) Yes, Ive already heard that before. I do what I can.

Do you like giving interviews?

Requests are legion. I could give one every day, but I dont do it.

You want to keep the media ball deflated.

(spontaneously) Yes, very deflated.

Lets talk about money. Does the Pope get a salary?

Ive not yet seen a papal paycheck.

Back to Baden. Do you still have a suitcase in Freiburg?

Yes, of course, contact with my home diocese is good. I studied there and am still a priest in the archdiocese of Freiburg.

A question which will be the last one for now: How do you picture paradise?

Open the New Testament, youll find the answer there. There are a series of beautiful images depicting the reality of eternal life.