Der Kurier out of Vienna has an interview with journalist Peter Seewald, who visited the emeritus Bishop of Rome Benedict XVI shortly before Christmas. Seewald is close to Benedict and has written much about him.
Asked what impression Benedict made, Seewald said, “At first glance, not a good impression… It is increasingly difficult for him to walk. He speaks quietly, but is very alert and focused and always friendly and in a good mood. He has the aura of a man who has drawn very close to God.”
Seewald writes that Benedict was to celebrate Christmas with Archbishop Gänswein, the four sisters of Memores Domini, and the old teddy bear which he got for Christmas as a two-year-old baby.
Benedict keeps a regularly structured day, beginning with Mass at 7:00 am. He no longer walks to the Lourdes grotto in the afternoon to say the Rosary, and in fact he hardly leaves his residence anymore. He is in extensive written correspondence with many people.
Pope Francis enjoys writing notes to his predecessor – in writing that is even tinier than that of Benedict. The two get along well, and Francis is very attentive to Benedict, he told Seewald.
Seewald says that of course the pope emeritus is concerned about the state of Christianity in Europe and especially the state of the Church. The differences between the pontificate of Benedict and of Francis are becoming increasingly clear. “It is not merely a different style, it is a matter of identity and overall direction, and of the question, Are whether there are any certainties whatsoever in the faith of the Catholic Church?” But Benedict does not comment on the actions of Pope Francis and does not interfere. And furthermore, Joseph Ratzinger never yet has allowed himself to be instrumentalized.”
Asked about the remaining influence of Benedict’s followers in the Vatican, Seewald stated that he finds it laughable to play the two popes off each other and construct supposed factions. “Every pope pulls together his own team of coworkers. It was no different with Benedict XVI.” But still, it has not gone unnoticed that previous confidants of Pope Benedict have been marginalized. “Many observers are concerned” about Francis’s personnel decisions and actions.
And yet: “Ultimately, in a changing world that stands on the brink, the thing is to pull together on the same rope and stay the course.”