Archbishop Gaenswein Discusses Gestures of Francis and Preparedness of Benedict on Papal Trips

Tells ZENIT How Benedict Always Travelled as a Pilgrim With Joy of the Faith

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The words and gestures of Pope Francis and Benedict XVI on trips abroad were the centre of discussion at a Rome conference on Thursday.

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, prefect of the Pontifical Household and private secretary of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI along with Marco Tosatti, journalist of La Stampa and the Vatican Insider, spoke on the theme of “Journeys of the Popes between diplomacy and communication,” at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

The conference was aimed at offering new ideas and original interpretations of the two popes’ apostolic trips. 

Archbishop Gänswein told ZENIT that two important aspects of Pope Benedict were that he always travelled “as a pilgrim” and that he “brought the joy of the faith and the witness of Jesus Christ – the joy of the faith and giving witness to the Lord.”

Archbishop Gänswein addressed the conference on the theme: “Political speeches of Benedict XVI on his apostolic journeys abroad.” Tosatti reflected on “The gestures of diplomacy during the trips of Pope Francis.” The book “Sull’aereo di Papa Benedetto” (“On the plane of Pope Benedict”) by Angela Ambrogetti, director of, was used as a springboard for discussions.

Reflecting on the continuity between popes, Tosatti said Popes Paul VI, St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis all used gestures in different ways, which were “profound,” “suggestive” and “symbolic.” He said Francis’ gestures are an “instrument of communication for Francis” and the “quality of the gestures” is important.They can communicate various things, such as “diplomacy,” “sensibility,” “necessity,” or even “doubt,” he said.

The journalist said the recent Holy Land Trip was a gesture which contributed to ecumenical dialogue. He called it “symbolic” and said it “communicated brotherhood and friendship.” He said “even silence can be a profound gesture”.

The prefect of the Papal Household said some of Pope Francis’ gestures aren’t very thought out. “They are very spontaneous” but are a “very strong characteristic” of the Argentine pope’s pontificate, he said. This characteristic, he recognized, was different for Francis’ predecessor, who always “prepared himself” and whose actions and words were consistently, planned and prepared.

Archbishop Gänswein spoke on why Pope Francis prefers gestures. “A gesture,” he said, “says much more, is immediately understandable; while a speech is much more challenging.” Clear and strong gestures, he added, have a lasting impact, and don’t run the risk of being misinterpreted, as speeches often are. He noted how Francis has stressed to bishops how they should likewise use gestures.

Angela Ambrogetti told ZENIT that, based on her extensive experience of papal visits, “Archbishop Gänswein really covered the truth about Pope Benedict’s central themes in discourses, and how he would prepare.”


On Zenit’s Web page:

For text of Archbishop Gänswein’s Discourse:

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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