(ZENIT News / Rome, 05.02.2023).- One of the seven questions, which journalists asked the Pope on the return flight from Africa to Romeabout unity within the Catholic Church itself, was posed by Alexander Hecht (of ORF TV): “There has been much talk in recent days about unity. There has also been a demonstration of Christian unity in South Sudan, and also of unity within the Catholic Church itself. I would like to ask you if you feel this after the death of Benedict XVI: have your job and your mission been more difficult for you, because the tensions between the different wings of the Catholic Church have become stronger?
To which the Holy Father answered: “On this point, I would like to say that I was able to talk about everything with Pope Benedict, [also] to change opinion. He was always by my side, supporting me, and if he had any issue, he would tell me and we would talk. There were no problems.”
Pope Francis said that “once I spoke with him about the marriage of homosexual people, about the fact that Marriage is a Sacrament and that we cannot make a sacrament, but that there is a possibility of ensuring legal protection of property rights, which began in France, [where ] any person can form a civil union, not necessarily as a couple. For example, old ladies who are retired . . . because one can earn a lot.”
Then Pope Francis said: “A person who considered himself to be a great theologian, went to Pope Benedict, through a friend of his, and made a complaint against me. Benedict was not concerned. He called four top-level theologians and said: “explain this to me,” and they explained it. And so the story ended.
The Pontiff continued: “It is an anecdote that shows how Benedict acted when there was a complaint. Some stories going around, that Benedict was embittered by what the new Pope did, are ‘a game of telephone.’ In fact, I consulted Benedict for some decisions to be taken and he agreed; he agreed.
Answering the journalist’s question specifically, Pope Francis stressed: “I believe that Benedict’s death has been exploited by people who want to add grist to their mill. And those who exploit such a good person, such a man of God, I would say a holy Father of the Church, well, I would say they are unethical people; they are people belonging to a party, not to the Church . . . You can see everywhere the tendency to make theological views parties.”
“These things will fall on their own, or if they don’t they will go on as has happened many times in the history of the Church. I wanted to say clearly who Pope Benedict was: he was not embittered.”
In a previous interview with AP in early January, Pope Francis said about Benedict XVI that “some wanted to use him and he defended himself as much as he could in his regard. And I have no words to describe his affability. He is a lord, one of those old-fashioned lordships.” And, referring to the death of the Pope Emeritus, he highlighted his personal experience: “I lost a Dad, and for me he was a security in face of a doubt, [I would call] for the car and go to the monastery and ask [him]. I lost a good companion.”