Papal secretary marks boss’ anniversary with a book

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI isn’t the only resident of the Apostolic Palace involved in writing and publishing.

After having collaborated on children’s books about Pope Benedict XVI, Msgr. Georg Ganswein — his personal secretary — is celebrating the fifth anniversary of the pope’s election with his own book, “Benedict XVI: Urbi et Orbi,” looking at the pope’s public encounters with the faithful and with other visitors in Rome and around the world.

Msgr. Ganswein and Pope Benedict XVI at a weekly general audience in January. (CNS/Paul Haring)

On all the trips and at each encounter, Msgr. Ganswein has had a front-row seat. But it’s not a tell-all book by any stretch of the imagination. Its 90-odd pages are filled with photographs and quotes from papal speeches, along with brief introductory notes from the papal secretary.

A joint project of the Vatican publishing house and Germany’s Verlag Herder, the book was distributed to journalists yesterday. So far, it is available only in Italian and German.

The main focus is on Pope Benedict’s trips abroad, but there also are pages dedicated to his visits to Rome parishes and Catholic charitable agencies and to cities throughout Italy.

Describing the pope’s April 2008 visit to the United States, Msgr. Ganswein said the pope arrived “in a country deeply wounded and suffering.”

“What would Benedict XVI say about the sexual abuse of minors by churchmen? What would he say at ground zero where the Twin Towers stood before a terrorist attack cut them down, causing the deaths of thousands of people?” Msgr. Ganswein asked.

“The pope was not afraid of calling the incomprehensible by name. He met privately with the victims of sexual abuse, and at the place where thousands died, he did not speak of vengeance, but of forgiveness,” the secretary wrote.

Msgr. Ganswein ends the book with an essay titled, “The End of a Trip is the Eve of Another.” He points out that the pope is going to Malta this weekend, to Portugal May 11-14, to Cyprus June 4-6, to England and Scotland Sept. 16-19; and to Spain Nov. 6-7.

He said that just as thousands of people want to come to Rome to meet the pope, the pope wants to travel to meet them.

“As Catholics even those who are not fortunate enough to meet the pope personally have the privilege of belonging — together with the Successor of Peter — to a worldwide community, which although not perfect, for 2,000 years has proclaimed in every tongue the good news that God loves humanity and that death does not have the last word, because that belongs to God, who is full of love for us.”

As for book writing, Msgr. Ganswein repeated what has been reported several times: the second volume of Pope Benedict’s book on Jesus of Nazareth “will appear soon.”

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