Former Pope Benedict wants name removed from controversial book: aide

Former Pope Benedict’s, right, intervention in the book had the appearance of being an attempt to interfere with Pope Francis’ ministry. (Vatican Media/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 14 January 2020

Former Pope Benedict wants name removed from controversial book: aide

VATICAN CITY: Former Pope Benedict wants his name removed as co-author of a controversial book on the issue of priestly celibacy, his personal secretary said on Tuesday.
Archbishop Georg Ganswein told Reuters that, at the former pope’s behest, he had asked the principal author of the book, Cardinal Robert Sarah, to ask the publishers to remove Benedict’s name from the cover, the introduction and the conclusion.
Some Roman Catholic scholars had rebuked the former pope for his comments in the book, saying his words risked destabilizing the reigning Pope Francis.
Cardinal Sarah, who heads the Vatican’s liturgy office, spoke out after news reports quoting “sources close to Benedict” claimed the retired pope never saw or approved the finished product.
Sarah reproduced letters from Benedict making clear the 92-year-old pope had written the text and approved publishing it.
The controversy underscores the conservative-progressive battle lines that have exploded in the Catholic Church following Benedict’s 2013 decision to retire, and his successor Pope Francis’ more reform-minded papacy.
Benedict’s intervention in the book, “From the Depths of Our Hearts,” had the appearance of being an attempt to interfere with Pope Francis’ ministry. Francis has said he will publish a document in the coming weeks that is expected to touch on whether married men could be ordained priests in the Amazon, to deal with a priest shortage there.
Benedict’s reaffirmation of the “necessity” of priestly celibacy in the book gave the impression that the former pope was trying to influence the thinking of the current one.
His intervention was also surprising, given he had vowed to live “hidden from the world” when he retired in 2013, specifically to avoid any suggestion that he still wielded papal authority.
Catholic Twitter accounts, amplifying the rift between right and left, were buzzing about the implications of Benedict’s intervention.
Francis’ supporters claimed Benedict had been manipulated by members of his right-wing entourage into writing something that amounted to a frontal attack on Francis. Some claimed it was evidence of elder abuse, given Benedict’s 92 years and increasing frailty.
Conservatives, many of whom long for Benedict’s orthodoxy, claimed it was no such thing and noted that Francis too has reaffirmed the gift of priestly celibacy.
The Vatican tried to tamp down the whole furor by insisting the book was a mere “contribution” to the discussion about priestly celibacy written by two bishops in “filial obedience” to Francis.
Sarah denied there was any manipulation on his part and said Benedict was very much a part of the process.
He tweeted three 2018 letters from Benedict making clear the retired pope had provided him the text.


Troops from Niger and France hunt for killers of aid workers in Niger nature reserve

The wreckage of the car where six French aid workers, their local guide and the driver were killed by unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles in an area of southwestern Niger. (AFP)
Updated 10 August 2020

Troops from Niger and France hunt for killers of aid workers in Niger nature reserve

  • Attackers on motorbikes ambushed the group of aid workers as they drove through the giraffe reserve
  • France has 5,100 troops deployed in the arid region south of the Sahara desert

NIAMEY: French and Nigerien soldiers searched through a giraffe reserve and the surrounding area in Niger on Monday for traces of the gunmen who killed six French aid workers, a French military source said.
France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor also opened an investigation into the incident, in which attackers on motorbikes ambushed the group as it drove through the reserve located 65 km (40 miles) from the capital Niamey — an area considered safe by the Niger government.
The French aid workers were employed by the charity ACTED. A local driver working for the relief group and a guide were also killed. ACTED called the murders “senseless and cowardly.”
“This heinous crime must not go unpunished, nor will it distract us from our commitment to support the people of Niger,” said ACTED, which has worked to help vulnerable populations in the country since 2010.
No one has claimed responsibility for the assault. But France and other countries have warned people against traveling to parts of Niger where militants including Boko Haram and an affiliate of Daesh operate.
“Military operations are ongoing today,” the military source said.
In the clearest sign yet that France believes a militant group was behind the attack, the office of France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor said it was launching an investigation on suspicion of the involvement of a terrorist group.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he shared their families’ grief. “Our determination to combat armed terrorist groups is resolute. The fight continues,” Macron tweeted.
The reserve southeast of Niamey is home to West Africa’s last sizeable population of giraffe in the wild. In the wet season, thick green acacia bushes dot the flat, sandy plains.
It is a popular attraction in Niger, a vast country that borders seven states in an unstable region including Libya, Mali, Chad, Algeria and Nigeria.
France, a former colonial power in the region, has 5,100 troops deployed in the arid region south of the Sahara desert since 2013. The United States also has soldiers based in Niger.
Nonetheless, militant violence has been on the rise.