ROME — Peter Seewald, close friend and collaborator of Pope Benedict XVI, said Thursday that Benedict was “stabbed in the heart” by Pope Francis’ attacks on the traditional Latin Mass.
Seewald, a German journalist who worked with Joseph Ratzinger — the future Benedict XVI — for over 25 years, said that Pope Francis has done his best to eradicate the legacy of his immediate predecessor in every way possible.
Francis’ words at the requiem Mass for Benedict XVI “were as cold as the whole ceremony, which had to be brief so as not to honor his predecessor too much,” Seewald told La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana.
Pope Francis “seems to have an aversion to the westernized traditions of the Catholic Church,” said Seewald. “As a South American and a Jesuit, he has erased much of what was precious and dear to Ratzinger.”
“Suffice it to recall the ban on the Tridentine Mass. Benedict had built a small bridge to a largely forgotten treasure island, which until then had only been accessible through difficult terrain,” Benedict’s biographer added.
“It was a matter close to the German Pope’s heart and there was really no reason to tear down this bridge again. It was obviously a demonstration of the new power,” he said, regarding Francis’ harsh restrictions on the celebration of the Latin Mass.
“The subsequent purge of staff completed the picture. Many people who supported Ratzinger’s course and Catholic doctrine were guillotined,” he noted.
Seewald stated that according to his sources, the pope’s claim that the majority of bishops had voted in favor of repealing Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum in a worldwide poll is simply “not true.”
“What I find particularly shameful is that the Pope Emeritus was not even informed of this act but had to learn about it from the press. He was stabbed in the heart,” he said.
In his interview, Seewald also criticized Pope Francis’ severe treatment of close colleagues and supporters of Pope Benedict, such as Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Texas Bishop Joseph Strickland, Cardinal Raymond Burke, and Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict’s loyal secretary.
“It was an unprecedented event in the history of the Church that Archbishop Gänswein, the closest collaborator of a highly deserving Pope, the greatest theologian ever to sit on the See of Peter, was thrown out of the Vatican in disgrace,” Seewald said. “He was not even given a word of pro forma thanks for his work.”
“Of course, the purge primarily concerned the man whose lineage Gänswein represents, Benedict XVI,” Seewald stated. “More recently, it was the American Bishop Strickland, Benedict’s friend and a critic of Bergoglio, who was removed from office on the pretext of financial misconduct, an obviously implausible reason.”
“And when a Ratzinger supporter like 75-year-old Cardinal Burke is deprived overnight of his home and salary without any explanation, it is difficult to recognize the Christian fraternity in all this,” he added.
Asked to comment on Francis’ appointment of his fellow Argentinian Víctor Manuel Fernández to head up the Vatican’s powerful doctrinal office, Seewald noted that Fernández’s incompetence was apparently less important than his fawning devotion to Francis.
Fernández, who was quickly given a cardinal’s hat, “is not qualified for this important task, except for one thing: he is the protégé of an Argentinian Pope,” Seewald said. “Until now ability was the main criterion for these appointments, but under Bergoglio it seems it is loyalty to the line that counts.”
Even before taking office, Fernández had said he “wanted to change the catechism, relativize Bible statements and question celibacy,” Seewald said.
Fernández has used the ruse of “an expanded understanding of things” as “the door to be able to legitimize previously unknown interpretations of the Catholic faith,” he stated.
In his new role as prefect, Fernández has been exempted from having to deal with sexual abuse in the Church, Seewald observed, wryly adding that Fernández is no stranger to this topic since, as archbishop of La Plata, “he had covered up at least eleven cases of sexual abuse by priests.”