Pope Benedict XVI’s secretary, advocate and confidant: What you need to know about Georg Gänswein

Archbishop Georg Gänswein is publishing a memoir of his years with Pope Benedict. But the archbishop is a compelling figure in and of himself.

By Jim McDermott

One of the central figures in the days surrounding Pope Benedict’s wake and funeral has been Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the pope’s longtime private secretary. It was Archbishop Gänswein who was at Benedict’s bedside when he died and reported that a nurse had heard Benedict say, “Jesus, I love you,” a few hours earlier; he also greeted mourners who came to visit Benedict’s body when it lay in state at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Later this week, he will be publishing a memoir of his years with Pope Benedict, Nothing But the Truth: My Life Beside Pope Benedict XVI. And while the book promises to tell the story of Benedict’s papacy from behind the scenes, Archbishop Gänswein is a compelling figure in and of himself. He has an amateur pilot’s license, loves the outdoors and plays tennis. As a young man he had long hair and listened to Cat Stevens and Pink Floyd. Working for Benedict, he aspired to be a “pane of glass,” allowing the “sunlight” of Benedict in without becoming visible himself. Yet his own good looks inspired fashion shows, magazine covers and stories around the world. After Benedict’s resignation, he worked simultaneously for both Benedict and Pope Francis in key positions, leading La Stampa to suggest he was “almost a ‘third pope.’” But in 2020, he was relieved of most of his Vatican duties after seeming to use Benedict to publicly undermine Francis.

Who is this paradoxical, controversial figure?

A childhood spent mining for meaning

Georg Gänswein was born in 1956 in a village in southwestern Germany. The oldest son of a blacksmith active in local politics, Gänswein saved for college by working as a mailman and dreamt of being a stockbroker. “My idea was that there was a lot of money being made and that you had to be bright and fast,” he told Süddeutsche Zeitung in 2007. But the more he considered that career, the more he wondered about what kind of meaning it would offer him. “I thought, O.K., if I can do all that and have money, what happens then?”

“Suddenly, existential questions took center stage,” he told the German magazine, leading him to the study of philosophy and theology. And the more he dug in, the more he came to believe that only as a priest could he fully enter into the deeper investigations of theology. “At some point I felt that I couldn’t drive at half speed, either I’d do it completely or I’d quit,” he said. “A little theology, that’s not possible. So, step by step, I approached the priesthood.” In 1976, he entered the seminary for the Archdiocese of Freiburg.

Gänswein: ‘The study of canon law felt to me as dry as working in a dusty quarry where there is no beer.’

After being ordained in 1984, Father Gänswein worked for a time as an associate pastor in his diocese before being assigned to get a doctorate in canon law at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. He initially hated it. “I had always studied gladly and easily,” he told Süddeutsche“but the study of canon law felt to me as dry as working in a dusty quarry where there is no beer. You die of thirst.” With the help of a good director, he produced a dissertation in 1993 on the ecclesiology of the Second Vatican Council.

Father Gänswein’s predecessor, then-Archbishop Stanislaus Dziwisz, had warned him that his most important job was as the pope’s gatekeeper, and in the early going, Father Gänswein admitted that navigating “the countless requests for private audiences and other encounters” was difficult. But a more unexpected and complex challenge for Father Gänswein was the massive media attention that he found himself receiving.

Almost from the start of Benedict’s papacy, commentators made a point of remarking on Father Gänswein’s good looks.

Almost from the start of Benedict’s papacy, commentators and others made a point of remarking on Father Gänswein’s good looks. The Italian press dubbed him “Gorgeous Georg”; in 2007, fashion icon Donatella Versace used him as an inspiration for her 2007 Clergyman Collection. And his handsome features frequently became a focus of stories during papal visits.

In describing a papal visit to the United Kingdom, John Hooper at The Guardian describes Father Gänswein as “A tall, athletically built man wearing a broad pink sash over his priestly black garb…the pope’s good-looking private secretary, who will no doubt become one of the stars of the four-day visit.” That same year, the Irish author Colm Tóibín called Father Gänswein “remarkably handsome, a cross between George Clooney and Hugh Grant, but, in a way, more beautiful than either.” When consecrated bishop early in 2013, the Italian edition of Vanity Fair put him on the cover of their January 2013 issue, with the headline “Father Georg—it’s not a sin to be beautiful.”

Benedict’s papacy suffered through a number of significant controversies—his citation in a speech at Regensberg of a 14th-century emperor who argued that the only thing that the prophet Muhammad “brought that was new…[were] things evil and inhuman”; clergy sexual abuse scandals; and the Vatileaks scandal, which would reveal that the pope’s own butler had for years been stealing correspondence between Benedict and Father Gänswein and then sold some of it to the press, out of a concern that Benedict himself was being kept in the dark about “evil and corruption” in the church. And Father Gänswein was always at his side.In 2007, he called the Regensberg speech “prophetic” and the protests that ensued around the world “crude reactions.” In recent days, he has said that Benedict was the “father of transparency” and “the decisive figure” in matters of sexual abuse.

And in his new book he describes Benedict’s papacy as frequently attacked by the devil. In an excerpt from La Reppublica about the Vatileaks scandal, he writes, “It’s obvious, as Pope Francis would say, that the bad guy, the evil one, the devil doesn’t sleep.”

Pope Francis: divided and dividing loyalties

In December 2012, Father Gänswein was appointed the head of the papal household and appointed to the rank of archbishop. This brought with it an even larger role in the Vatican—responsibility for every public papal audience in Rome, papal visits with heads of state and bishops, any papal travel within Italy and care for many of the Vatican’s buildings. It seemed to signal an ever deeper trust on the part of Benedict.

But behind the scenes Father Gänswein had been privy to a secret that no one else yet knew: Benedict was planning to resign. Over the last week, Archbishop Gänswein has begun to reveal details of Benedict’s last few months and how he pleaded with Benedict not to resign. “Holy Father, it’s impossible,” he recalls telling the pope. But Benedict would not be swayed. “This is a decision I’ve made…it’s not a thesis to be discussed,” the late pope said.

For some, that cast Archbishop Gänswein’s promotion into a different light. John Cornwell wrote in Vanity Fair that the appointment was a way for Benedict to be able to remain informed on what was going on in the Vatican. “Since this was one of Benedict’s last big appointments before his resignation,” Mr. Cornwell notes, “it would be difficult for the new Pope to countermand it without seeming disrespectful.”

In his early years working with Francis, his opinion of him seemed generally positive.

As it turns out, upon his election Pope Francis decided not to live in the papal apartments or to hold his normal meetings there, but instead took a room at the Casa Santa Maria guest house. And while Archbishop Gänswein remained the head of the papal household after Benedict’s resignation, he moved with the pope to the converted monastery in the Vatican Gardens that served as Benedict’s retirement home.

In his early years working with Francis, his opinion of him seemed generally positive. In 2015, while noting “a degree of unpredictability in [Francis’] action…the surprises at the last moment that are never lacking,” Archbishop Gänswein praised Francis’ work ethic, saying: “He is an extraordinary phenomenon. He works for two, and is 78 years old.” He also praised his spiritual life; “the coherence between his very active life and the time he dedicates to prayer is impressive; it is a contemplative life.”

A year later, Gänswein gave a talk at the Pontifical Gregorian University in which he argued that Francis and Benedict represented a new vision of the papal office, “a de facto extended Petrine ministry—with an active member and a contemplative member.” When questioned about this, Francis corrected the idea, telling reporters, “There is only one pope.”

That moment captured well the apparent conflict within Father Gänswein in his new position. As Pope Benedict’s private secretary, Father Gänswein made it his mission to “be transparent as glass so as not to conceal Benedict XVI in any way.” He came to identify with Benedict so intimately that when meeting a writer critical of Pope Benedict, he said, “Oh, you don’t like us.” Now he was being asked to serve a new pope with his own vision while also being the main caretaker of the well-being and legacy of his predecessor.

Archbishop Gänswein has spoken critically of the pope’s Synod on Synodality, saying he believes the texts generated “will not be fruitful.”

In 2017, he read a letter from Benedict at the funeral of Cardinal Joachim Meisner, who had criticized Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” praising Cardinal Meisner’s faith “even if the boat [of Peter] has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing.” It was widely interpreted as an attack on Francis. Some wondered whether it and other moves like it truly came from Benedict at all. Just a year earlier, Benedict had reaffirmed “my obedience to my successor” and said he felt “a sense of deep communion and friendship” with Francis.

Speaking to the puzzling contradiction of this, David Gibson recently noted in Slate that Benedict “continued to write, to send letters. But how much of that was Gänswein? Especially in the last couple years, it’s hard to tell how much of that was Gänswein pulling the strings.”

In 2020, Cardinal Robert Sarah and Pope Benedict together put out a book pushing for clerical celibacy at exactly the time Francis was publicly considering the possibility of married clergy in discussions at the Amazon synod. When the publication of this book made waves, Archbishop Gänswein insisted Benedict was not a co-author; he had simply contributed a chapter to the book. But in fact, other than a preface and conclusion, the book had only two chapters, the first of which was by Benedict.

Almost immediately, Archbishop Gänswein vanished from public functions of the papal household. This was explained at the time as “due to an ordinary redistribution of the various commitments and duties of the prefect of the Papal Household.” Later Archbishop Gänswein revealed that Francis had effectively removed him from the job, asking him to devote all his energy to caring for Benedict, which Archbishop Gänswein said “pained” him and felt like a “punishment.”

In February 2022, Archbishop Gänswein spoke critically of the pope’s Synod on Synodality, saying he believes the texts generated “will not be fruitful,” and implied that the concept behind the synod was not Catholic. “If I want a different Church that is no longer based on revelation, so to speak, if I want a different structure of the Church that is no longer sacramental but pseudo-democratic, then I must also see that this has nothing to do with Catholic understanding, with Catholic ecclesiology, with the Catholic understanding of the Church.”

In his new book—advance copies of which began to be sent out just hours after Benedict’s funeral—Archbishop Gänswein seems ready to issue more criticism of Francis alongside defending Benedict’s legacy. He told the German paper Die Tagepost that Francis’ restrictions on the Latin Mass hit Pope Benedict “very hard”: “I think it broke Pope Benedict’s heart to read that motu proprio.” He also writes that Benedict did not agree with the way that Francis answered questions on abortion and homosexuality in his 2013 interview with La Civiltà Cattolica editor in chief Antonio Spadaro, S.J., and said that he himself was never able to achieve “a climate of trust” with Francis.

The theologian Massimo Faggioli said of Archbishop Gänswein’s decision to do a tell-all book and publish it within days of Benedict’s death “[at] the very minimum, it’s very bad taste.” Mr. Gibson, who has written a book about Pope Benedict, agrees: “He’s being incredibly divisive. But Benedict took a lot of flak, and he’s going to defend his man.”

Source: Pope Benedict XVI’s secretary, advocate and confidant: What you need to know about Georg Gänswein | America Magazine

Les petits mots de Romy

Romy Schneider
Romy Schneider

Romy Schneider écrivait. Beaucoup. Notamment sur les tournages. Tous les réalisateurs qui ont travaillé avec elle en témoignent. Certains ont gardé ces précieux trésors.

[ Google Translation ]

By Anne Audigier

An exhibition at the Cinémathèque, a beautiful book which will be released in October… Romy Schneider still inspires just as much. Clémentine Deroudille , the curator of the exhibition and retrospective dedicated to Romy Schneider at the Cinémathèque and Jean-Pierre Lavoignat, who is therefore dedicating a book to her, spoke about the actress in ” Le Grand Atelierphantom” dedicated to her by Vincent Josse.

Among the objects and other souvenirs to be discovered in the exhibition: Romy’s little words. Notes, telegrams, a few lines scribbled on a memo. These little words that she never stopped sending to the directors she worked with. ” It was both spontaneous reactions “, explains Jean-Pierre Lavoignat ” like ‘you didn’t look at me enough during the scene’. Sometimes it was excerpts from books. The son of Claude Sautet, who kept everything, showed me letters from Romy Schneider, where she copied pages from Freud or pages from Goethe to share them because it corresponds to feelings or emotions .

In this mass of documents, an exchange of telegram just before the filming of “César et Rosalie”.

September 1971: Romy Schneider is in Mexico where she is filming ” The Assassination of Trotsky” with Alain Delon. Sautet is working on his next film ” César et Rosalie”. He offered the role of Rosalie to Catherine Deneuve who, enthusiastic at first, let things drag on a bit. Sautet will tell later that he too let things drag on because he wanted Romy.

Jean-Pierre Lavoignat says: ” Sautet sends him a telegram on the set, offering him “César et Rosalie”, and Romy replies :

I know that Madame Deneuve refused it. I’ll be your Rosalie, but I’m not Rosalie.

A telegram in which there are mistakes, Romy Schneider not fully mastering French writes: ” She learned French in a quasi-phonetic way,” recalls Jean-Pierre Lavoignat “therefore in all the letters, even in the last years she writes, there are spelling mistakes that make it even more touching and sincere.”

We can also talk about a service sheet from ” Max et les ferrrailleurs “, where Romy Schneider with a greasy makeup pencil wrote: ” Mon Clo, you will tell the producer and the production manager that I will not come to dinner this evening, since neither the machines nor the electros were invited “.

Tavernier, with whom she shot ” La mort en direct”, said that on the set, she signed all these little words with the name of her character.

Costa-Gavras, who directed Romy Schneider in ” Clair de Femme” , adapted from the novel by Romain Gary, also remembers these little words: ” In the evening, when we parted, she would say little words to me. In the morning, when she arrived, she would say little words to me . One day Costa tells her that they can talk about it, that she doesn’t have to write. Romy’s answer fuses:

You have to write because talking takes flight, it goes away. Writing remains.

” I think she had to say her anxieties,” explains the director, ” anxieties that you can only have when you’re actors and actresses. Really great actors think about every moment. Every moment, there’s You have to get into the character. You have to be the character. Otherwise, the audience doesn’t believe it. “

Source: Les petits mots de Romy

“Brassens, memories too beautiful for me”: the delicate and moving testimony of Agathe Fallet, who was the friend of the poet

By Annie Yanbekian (translated)

Agathe Fallet was the wife of the writer and screenwriter René Fallet, a close friend of Georges Brassens. She thus rubbed shoulders with the poet-singer for a quarter of a century, until his death in October 1981. Forty years later, in a short and superbly illustrated book, she reveals her memories.

Agathe Fallet waited forty years to unveil the treasures buried in her memory. Treasures of humanity from a time gone by, that of his youth alongside her husband René Fallet, writer ( Paris in August, Le Triporteur, La Soupe aux choux …), screenwriter, and above all a great friend by Georges Brassens, which allowed him to work closely with the poet.

The testimony: As the centenary of the birth of Brassens approaches, Agathe Fallet (her real first name is Michelle, Agathe being her nickname) has decided to share her memories, in order to return to her, “before the end of everything” , his “personal tribute”. Because she blames herself, even today, for“all his admiration and all his tenderness”.

However, although it might never have been formulated verbally, there was indeed some tenderness between Georges Brassens and the young wife of his friend René. This tenderness is palpable in the gorgeous photo used for the cover of the book. It is rare that a single illustration can thus summarize a whole work, a whole history of humanities. Georges Brassens, smiling warmly, carries with an incredible benevolence the young woman who is made very small in his arms …

A circle of poets and beautiful souls

The author was not yet seventeen when, in July 1956, she married René Fallet, twelve years her senior. By uniting her destiny with that of the writer, she joined a circle frequented by artists from all walks of life, as illustrated by the splendid photos of her wedding: they are signed by Robert Doisneau, for the most part. The only thing missing was Georges Brassens, already very famous at the time, and who “had delegated Püpchen”, his companion, because ” he was friendly enough not to steal the show from the bride and groom”, believes Agathe Fallet.

Agathe Fallet’s memories are first of all extracts from letters, such as brief chronicles, that René sent her when they were engaged, letters which speak of Brassens. It is then precious moments, but not always exhilarating, Impasse Florimont in Paris, where the young woman spends time with Jeanne, the hostess, and Püpchen, the woman of the life of Brassens, coquettish on her physical appearance. , worried about her age difference with her man (she was ten years older than him). Meanwhile, René Fallet and the poet are upstairs, in “the bedroom-office where Georges worked and enjoyed himself so much” . This piece, Agathe will never see it, “except in photo”. “Unfortunately for being a girl …”,she slips with touching sincerity. It is also an era that lives again in these lines.

Forty years later, an intact wonder

Fortunately, life, dinners with friends, trips to the provinces, tours, allow the young woman to share incredibly privileged moments with Georges Brassens. There are these trips by car where Agathe sometimes takes the wheel of the poet’s DS, at the latter’s request, after overly watered meals … There are improbable conversations, like that day when he said to her without shouting station: “Don’t you think I only hang out with idiots?”

This so personal work gracefully delivers a bunch of little stories, anecdotes, memories, which allow us to sketch portraits in nuances of Georges Brassens and his close entourage. And one always feels, from the first to the last line, this astonishment, this wonder, intact after so many years, to have been there, so close to Brassens. How not to envy Agathe Fallet for having lived all these moments?

The book ends with a small series of photos and personal archives of Agathe Fallet, an article by her husband on Brassens, cards and dedications by the poet … From delicacy and emotion, to final pages.

The cover of Agathe Fallet's book published at the end of October 2021 (ÉDITIONS DES ÉQUATEURS)


“Brassens, memories too beautiful for me”, by Agathe Fallet (Ecuador, 128 pages, 18 €)

Extract: “I listen to Brassens. When it is he who sings. Nobody should allow himself to sing it. His voice has not yet faded, as far as I know. And if that happens, we will read it and we will read it again.
It seems to me that Brassens has become for some a kind of business and that troubles me. I’m probably wrong. We really love Brassens. But Georges is forgotten. He was in the flesh. He was so handsome, incredibly handsome. His voice remains, you must not cover it. ” ( Brassens, memories too beautiful for me, page 17)Source: “Brassens, memories too beautiful for me”: the delicate and moving testimony of Agathe Fallet, who was the friend of the poet

New book on Francis Cabrel’s 40 years of life in songs

He is one of the artists most listened to by the French during the confinement: Francis Cabrel, more than 25 million records sold, is one of the figures of popular song.  

[Google Translation]


“Little Marie”, “I love to die”, “Again and again”, “The Lady of Haute-Savoie” …: for more than forty years, Francis Cabrel has been the author of a singular work and authentic. Embodying a musical genre on its own in French song, his poetry is a popular reference affecting several generations. 

In 13 albums and 25 million copies sold worldwide, the artist quickly became essential thanks to an identity marked by a pronounced accent and his folk guitar.

Francis Cabrel is also an artist concerned with the evolution of society. Thus, he does not hesitate to use his pen to try to raise awareness. His repertoire today contains many universal songs like “La corrida”, “Everyone thinks about it”, “You will have to tell them” or “I loved you, I love you and I will love you”.

Thomas Chaline reveals the secrets of Francis Cabrel’s creation and offers to discover the true story of his songs, which are all landmarks that mark the life of the poet. With the help of numerous anecdotes, the author looks back on around fifty titles and delivers an immersion in the world of one of the biggest record sellers in France. 

[to be published 24/09] Thomas Chaline – Cabrel, a life in songs – Hugo Doc – 9782755649062 – € 16.95

Source: Francis Cabrel, a life in songs: more than 40 years of career

‘The Gourmands’ Way’ review: Six Americans in Paris who changed the way we eat


For Americans growing up in the post-World War II affluence of peace and plenty, convenience cooking, supermarket produce and processed foods formed the basis of [ . . . ]

“The kitchen is a sensual place, and few household activities are more gratifying to the home cook than satisfying the gastronomic whims of a lover or spouse.”

Source: ‘The Gourmands’ Way’ review: Six Americans in Paris who changed the way we eat | Newsday