There Is Only One Pope…Andrea Cionci Asks: Which Is the Real One?
2 Marzo 2021
Dear friends and enemies of Stilum Curiae, a friend has sent us the English translation of Massimo Franco’s interview with Joseph Ratzinger, and the translation of the commentary that Andrea Cionci published in Libero. We offer them to you, as a contribution to the debate that is taking place on these issues. Happy reading.
“There Is Only One Pope” Ratzinger declares to Corriere.
But He Does Not Explain Which of the Two.
By Andrea Cionci
First published at Libero, 1 March 2021
Hear ye, hear ye: today’s exclusive interview of Benedict XVI by Massimo Franco in Corriere della Sera has finally brought clarity to the mystery of the two popes.
We copy here the quotations of the “pope emeritus” that, according to the interpretation given by Franco, supposedly definitively take the head off the bull of the rumors and disputes that would say that Bergoglio is an illegitimate pope:
“There are not two popes. There is only one Pope…” Joseph Ratzinger says it with a faint voice, straining to say each word clearly. “There is only one Pope,” he repeats, weakly striking the palm of his hand on the armrest.
There is only one pope; that’s great. WHICH OF THE TWO IS IT THEN? Ratzinger does not explain this. If you attentively re-read Franco’s article, in no place does Ratzinger say: “Bergoglio is the one true pope.” This is what would have been the most obvious and simple way to resolve a long-standing dispute.
Therefore, if desired, Benedict’s statements could be perfectly interpreted as referring also to himself: “There is only one Pope, and it is the one who has retained the Petrine munus, that is: ME.”
Ratzinger continues in Franco’s interview:
It was a difficult decision. But I made it in full consciousness, and I believe that I did well. Some of my friends who are a bit “fanatical” are still angry; they did not want to accept my choice.
Has his decision left his most faithful followers unhappy? And what does that mean? Aldo Maria Valli (here) loves Benedict very much but he did not agree with his decision. Valli thinks that Bergoglio is a legitimate pope (even if not a real one in his spiritual substance), and he is unhappy with Ratzinger’s resignation.
This does not exclude the possibility that Benedict could have apparently resigned as part of a strategy that escapes Valli. We have written about this hypothesis here.
I am thinking of the conspiracy theories that followed it: those who said that it was the fault of the Vatileaks scandal, those who said it was a conspiracy of the gay lobby, those who said it was because of the case of conservative Lefebvrian theologian Richard Williamson. They do not want to believe that it was a choice done in full awareness. But my conscience is clear.
Actually, these are not the conspiracy theories that are the most popular, which are on the contrary the machinations of the Saint Gallen Mafia group – moreover explicitly declared by the primate of Belgium Cardinal Danneels – and of ecclesiastical masonry. Everyone knows this; it has been talked about for years.
Neither Freemasonry nor the Saint Gallen Mafia are mentioned by Ratzinger, and this is precisely the point.
Thus his choice to resign without resigning, or to resign invalidly, could have been dictated by pressure from lobbies (not mentioned by him) and this plan, subtly strategic, has left his supporters unhappy and they have not grasped its significance. He has a clear conscience because he knows that Tempus omnia revelat. As you can see, Ratzinger’s speech holds together seamlessly, without a wrinkle.
So is Benedict XVI dishonest and using tricks? Not at all: it would be perfectly sincere and coherent with all of his conduct to date. To see it from another perspective, of equal dignity to that of Corriere, Benedict did not resign validly; he is still pope because he retains the Petrine munus; he continues to dress in white, to be called Pontifex Pontificum, to impart the apostolic blessings, to make pronouncements on matters of faith, and he also reiterates in an interview, with force, that there is only one pope: him.
Seen in this light, his speech is completely coherent.
A conspiracy theory? No, the Italian language speaks clearly, you just need to know how to read it carefully, and my colleague Franco has certainly reported the quotations with fidelity.
Now, it is apparent that if it were true that Ratzinger was forced to resign, he could plausibly not be free to express himself freely: perhaps he is being blackmailed, or threatened, who knows? Why else would the “German shepherd,” the adamantine theologian, the very rational German thinker and profound connoisseur of the Church be so ambiguous? Just for the sake of leaving one billion and 300,000 Catholics in anxiety and uncertainty?
And then it is obvious that, in such a case, his only recourse would be in using a language that is truthful but veiled, which only some are able to interpret correctly, according to the divine Logos. It is a subtle language that has also been recognized in the Declaratio of resignation.
Moreover, the heavy and sugary superstructures of Corriere, which right on the heels of the most recent statements by Aldo Maria Valli want to make Benedict say at all costs WHAT HE DID NOT SAY, says a lot about the mainstream narrative of the two popes. What is certain is that the interview does not define anything but instead aggravates suspicions.
The feeling is that Ratzinger, who apparently is the only one who retains the title of Vicar of Christ (Bergoglio has renounced it) is being “innocent as a dove and cunning as a serpent,” as Jesus Christ recommended. And that, with four carefully delivered words, he has fooled everyone. Again.
Many cite the fact that in 2019 Benedict supposedly admitted that Francis is the pope. But it’s not true. In 2019 Vatican News quoted the interview of Corriere della Sera (here) where the following sentence by the journalist Massimo Franco appears:
“Bergoglio’s enemies, often conservatives desperately seeking for a word from Benedict that would sound critical of Bergoglio, heard him respond without fail that “There is one Pope; it’s Francis.”
So says Franco, but it is a rumor, a supposition; it is not a direct quotation from Ratzinger.
And instead Vatican News passed it off as a direct declaration from Ratzinger, headlining it: “Benedict XVI: There is One Pope, Francis.”
And in the text they write: “It is the certainty of Benedict XVI who reminds everyone: “There is one Pope, Francis.”
A manipulation that speaks for itself.
For maximum completeness, we copy here in toto Massimo Franco’s interview in Corriere della Sera:
“There are not two Popes. There is only one Pope…” Joseph Ratzinger says it with a faint voice, straining to say each word clearly. He is seated on one of the two light leather armchairs that, along with a sofa, furnish the living room on the first floor of the Mater Ecclesiae cloistered monastery: the place where he retired, far from everything, in March 2013. His reading glasses are placed on the side table, next to an antique wooden statue that depicts the Madonna and Child. “This is the Sala Guardini. It is called this because it holds among other things all the works of the Italian-German theologian Romano Guardini. It’s there, behind you,” explains Archbishop Georg Ganswein, his personal secretary and Prefect of the Papal Household, pointing to the bookcase lining the walls. The editor of Corriere della Sera, Luciano Fontana, hands the Pope emeritus a red folder containing two caricatures that Emilio Giannelli, a cartoonist appreciated by Benedict, has designed especially for him. He looks at the first one for a long time, and he smiles. Then he passes to the second one, and his smile widens into laughter. “Gianelli is a witty person,” he notes with papal and Bavarian aplomb.
Up until 2012, cloistered sisters lived in the twelve cells of this building, which was constructed between 1992 and 1994 and previously occupied by the Gendarmerie of the papal gardens. Now the building hosts Benedict, the four “Memores” – the consecrated women of Communion and Liberation who assist him – and Archbishop Ganswein. The building appears suddenly after a curve on the path in the highest and most inaccessible part of Vatican City. It is protected by an electric gate, behind which reigns an unreal silence. Meeting with Benedict is rare, especially in recent times. Even more unusual is the fact that you agree to address one of the most traumatic arguments for the life of the Catholic Church in the last few centuries. His clarification on the oneness [unicità] of the Papacy is taken for granted by him, but not by certain sectors of conservative Catholicism that are more irreducible in hostility to Francis. For this reason, he repeats, “There is only one Pope,” weakly striking the palm of his hand on the armrest, as if he wanted to give to the words the force of a definitive affirmation.
It is significant that he gives the message to Corriere right on the eve of February 28, the day on which eight years ago his resignation from the papacy that was announced on February 11 became effective. At the distance of quite some time, the disorientation, the amazement, and the gossip that accompanied that epochal gesture still stagnate. And Benedict seems to want to exorcize them. We ask if in the past few years he has often thought about that day. He nods. “It was a difficult decision. But I made it in full consciousness, and I believe that I did well. Some of my friends who are a bit “fanatical” are still angry; they did not want to accept my choice. I am thinking of the conspiracy theories that followed it: those who said that it was the fault of the Vatileaks scandal, those who said it was a conspiracy of the gay lobby, those who said it was because of the case of conservative Lefebvrian theologian Richard Williamson. They do not want to believe that it was a choice done in full awareness. But my conscience is clear.”
The phrases are uttered with care; his voice is a breath; it comes and goes. And Archbishop Ganswein in some rare passages repeats and “translates,” while Benedict nods showing his approval. His mind remains lucid, quick like his eyes, alert and lively. His white hair is slightly long, underneath the papal zucchetto, which is white like his clothing. Two very thin wrists emerge from the sleeves, which emphasize an image of great physical fragility. Ratzinger wears a watch on his left wrist, and on his right a strange gadget that looks like another watch but is actually an alarm ready to go off if something happens to him. What he himself defined in February 2018, in a letter to Corriere, as “this last period of my life,” flows calmly, in the hermitage between the hairpin bends of the Vatican Gardens flanked by trees, waterfalls, and altars from which one can see all of Rome. Up until February 2 there was a Nativity scene and a Christmas tree in the room where he receives us, framed between the bookshelves, the icons hung on the walls along with other sacred images: a sober room that is not large but welcoming.
The daily rhythms are routine. Every day newspapers previously selected by the Vatican offices are read. In addition, printed editions of L’Osservatore Romano, Corriere della Sera and two German newspapers arrive. At the table politics are often discussed with the “Memores.” And now the Pope emeritus is curious about Mario Draghi. “Let’s hope he will be able to resolve the crisis,” he says. “He is a very respected man also in Germany.” He mentions Sergio Mattarella, although he admits that he knows the head of state less well than his predecessor, Giorgio Napolitano. “How is he doing?” he asks. And the conversation shifts to the Covid-19 epidemic.
Ratzinger has already been vaccinated; he received the first dose and then the second, just like Archbishop Ganswein and the majority of the inhabitants of Vatican City. Under this aspect, the tiny country is observed with a touch of envy in Italy and the majority of Europe, where the vaccines are arriving slowly. The virus causes fear, and Benedict mentions the dramatic experience of the president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, who was healed after a long battle. “I just saw him again, and he told me he is much better now. I found him well.” And when the Pope emeritus is asked about Francis’ upcoming visit to Iraq, his expression becomes serious and worried. “I think that it is a very important trip,” he observes. “Unfortunately, it is happening at a very difficult moment, which also makes it a dangerous journey: for security reasons and because of Covid. And then there is the unstable Iraqi situation. I will accompany Francis with my prayer.” Some of the Vatican Gendarmerie and the Swiss Guards are already there to organize all the possible protective measures around Pope Francis. For weeks now Italian intelligence agents have also been present, but it is not clear with whom they are collaborating. There are no comments on this from the monastery where Ratzinger lives. Thinking of the United States comes naturally, observing that now, with Joe Biden in the White House in place of Donald Trump, relations with the Vatican are destined to improve.
On Biden, the second Catholic President after John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Ratzinger expresses some reserve on the religious level. “It’s true, he is a practicing Catholic. And personally he is against abortion,” he observes. “But as president, he tends to present himself in continuity with the line of the Democratic Party…. And on gender politics we still have not understood well what his position is,” he whispers, giving voice to the distrust and hostility of a large part of the episcopate of the United States towards Biden and his party, considered too liberal.
Forty-five minutes have passed; outside it is starting to get dark: far away, even though in reality it is less than one kilometer, you can see the lights of Rome. Benedict gives a commemorative medal as a memento of the conversation and a bookmark with a photo of him giving a blessing, both from when he was pope. And once again the paradox emerges – not only his but that of a Church unwittingly immersed in the inextricable intertwining of two papal identities. Ratzinger says goodbye, remaining seated, with a hint of a smile, and he says thank you, pointing to the two cartoons by Gianelli placed on the table. In one of them, Benedict symbolically embraces a crowded Saint Peter’s Square: a nostalgic reminder not only of his pontificate but of the world before Covid-19. It is an image that contrasts with the powerful, dramatic image of Francis, who spoke on March 27, 2020 from the Sagrato of the same Square, deserted and spectral because of the coronavirus. In the other cartoon, the Pope emeritus gives the keys of the Church to a frowning Francis, adding: “I recommend…” As always when one deals with the Vatican, reality and symbolism are tied together in an indissoluble way. And the enigmas of the German Pope emeritus and the Argentine pope seem to have been made on purpose to feed the legends about ecclesiastical power and its mysteries. Coming out of the monastery, escorted by car by a plainclothes Swiss guardsman, it comes to mind that when Ratzinger repeats with a veil of a voice, “There is one Pope,” he is certainly addressing the “fanatics” who do not give up. He speaks to the followers of Francis, who fear the intellectual shadow of this old theologian weakened by age, in order to reassure them. But perhaps, after eight years, with his interior voice, the Pope emeritus unconsciously whispers it also to himself.
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