By Elise Harris
Though he has rarely spoken since resigning from the papacy, Benedict XVI granted several lengthy interviews to German journalist Peter Seewald shortly after stepping down – conversations that touched on themes such as the reform of the Curia, his resignation and his thoughts on Pope Francis.
The interviews, conducted a few months after Benedict’s Feb. 28, 2013, resignation, are set to be released in one book simultaneously worldwide Sept. 9, according to Italian daily “Corriere della Sera.”
About 240 pages in length, the book in German is titled “Letzte Gespräche,” or, “Final Conversations,” and “touches upon all the most important stages of life of Joseph Ratzinger.”
These stages include Benedict’s childhood under the Nazi regime, the discovery of his vocation to the priesthood, the hardships of the war and his time in the Vatican until his election to the papacy. It also covers “the anxiety” of his first few days as successor of St. Peter, as well as his “painful” decision to resign and his thoughts on Pope Francis.
In his responses to Seewald, Benedict speaks about himself, his faith, his weaknesses, his private life, the scandals and controversial issues of his reign, and his papacy in general, explaining the reason for his choice to resign – “initially only communicated to a few trusted people to avoid leaks,” Corriere della Sera reports.
The retired Pope also speaks about the reform of the Roman Curia, the “Vatileaks” scandal that many pinned as the reason for his stepping-down, and outlines the differences between him and Francis in light of “his own peculiarities” and those of his Argentine successor.
He also mentions the “gay lobby” at the Vatican – a group of four to five persons, which he says he was able to break up.
In a June 28 ceremony at the Vatican marking his 65th anniversary as a priest, Benedict told Pope Francis that from the moment of his election and every day since “your goodness…moves me interiorly, brings me inwardly more than the Vatican Gardens.”
“Your goodness is a place in which I feel protected,” he said of his successor.
Seewald, the author of the new book, is also the author of the 2010 book-length interview with Benedict titled “Light of the Word: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.” He had previously published two other books on then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “The Salt of the Earth,” and “God and the World.”
“Final Conversations,” then, will mark the journalist’s fourth book on Benedict from before his election to the throne of Peter, during his papacy and now after his resignation.
CNA contacted Seewald for comment on the book, however, the author said that for the moment, he prefers not to speak.
In an interview with CNA when “Light of the World” came out in 2010, Seewald said Benedict “is one of the greatest minds of the Catholic Church; someone with a great heart and…a fighter by nature, someone who remains standing amidst the storms, someone who is not afraid.”
“He is someone who does not get stuck in the past or in the present. He is someone who is very much a part of our times,” Seewald said, adding that he has always considered Benedict “a very modern man, someone who is always accessible, who promotes and seeks dialogue.”
“I would say he is an upright man and by far one of the greatest figures of our time…he is man who is always willing to listen, because he is not only a great thinker, he is also a great spiritual teacher.”
In a world that is “often blind,” it’s important to have someone “with this unbreakable attitude of openness,” he said, voicing his belief that Benedict “will be much better appreciated in the future” than he was at that time.