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The Original Story: When the Jesuit Cardinal told Pope Benedict XVI he had to Resign

As our contributor Francesca Romana comments on the original article that first broke this amazing story published on Corriere della Sera and now published in English for the first time here in Rorate: "I don't know about this Father Fausti ...but surely this article should help put an end to the pious myth that the Holy Spirit always choses the Pope..."

Cardinal Martini’s confessor: When Martini said to Ratzinger: “The Curia is not going to change, you must go…”

Gian Guido Vecchi
Corriere della Sera
July 16,2015

Fr. Silvano Fausti’s narrative: at the 2005 Conclave, the ex-Archbishop of Milan supported the German in order to avoid the dirty games of a “slippery ” candidate.

VATICAN CITY. Father Silvano Fausti related that it happened when Benedict XVI and Carlo Maria Martini saw each other for the last time. It was in Milan, at the World Meeting for Families on June 2, 2012, that the Cardinal who had been ill for some time, left Aloisium di Gallarate to meet up with the Pope. That was when they looked each other in the eyes and Martini, who would be dead by August 31, said to Ratzinger: “The Curia is not going to change, you have no choice but to leave”. Benedict XVI had come back exhausted from his trip to Cuba at the end of March. That summer he began talking to his closest collaborators about it and they tried to dissuade him. In December, he convoked the consistory where he created six cardinals among which there wasn’t even one European to ‘rebalance’ the College. On February 11, 2013, he announced the ‘renunciation’ of his pontificate. A resignation ‘programmed’ from the very beginning of his papacy – if things didn’t go the way they were supposed to – from the moment that Martini shifted his consensus to Ratzinger at the 2005 Conclave, to avoid the ‘dirty games’ which aimed at the elimination of them both and the election of “someone ‘ very slippery’ from the Curia, …”, or  so the Jesuit priest reveals.

Silvano Fausti died on June 24, 2015 at the age of 75, after a long illness. A biblical scholar and theologian, he was one of the most read and followed contemporary Catholic thinkers. He was the closest person to Carlo Maria Martini, the Cardinal who had chosen him as his spiritual guide and confessor and who confided in him. The ‘behind-the-scene intrigues’ conceded three months before he died to – in a video interview, is now available on the Net - corresponds with what Father Fausti confided in private at the farmstead of Villapizzone on the outskirts of Milan, where he had lived for 37 years with other Jesuits of the community he had founded.

Virtually a testament, which, with regard to Ratzinger and Martini, goes back to the time of the Conclave ten years ago. They were two of the most influential figures, says Fausti, “the two who had the most votes [although] Martini had a little more” (and at that time already suffering from Parkinson’s); one for the ‘conservatives’ and the other for the ‘progressives’. There was a plan to ‘make them both fall’ and elect the ‘very slippery’ Cardinal from the Curia. “Once the trickery was uncovered, Martini that evening went to Ratzinger and said: tomorrow, accept the Papacy with my votes”. It was all about ‘housecleaning’ . “He said [to Ratzinger]: you accept, since you have been in the Curia for 30 years, you’re intelligent and honest: try and reform the Curia, and if not, you leave”.

According to Fausti, Martini said that the Pope made a speech “which denounced these dirty maneuvers and embarrassed a lot of cardinals”. Benedict XVI had said “Pray for me that I may not flee for fear of the wolves”. Father Fausti recalls also the gesture Ratzinger made on April 28, 2009 in Aquila, devastated by the earthquake. What had been expected was simply a homage, but Benedict XVI created panic by passing through the doorway of the unstable Basilica at Collemaggio to lay down his pallium at the shrine of Celestine V - the Pope of the “great no”. Ratzinger and Martini, despite differences, acknowledged and esteemed each other. “To create news, they were always trying to play them against each other. Whereas, with Wojtyla, Martini held forth for his resignation every year…” Benedict XVI’s resignation [on the other hand] was a possibility right from the start of his pontificate, Fausti explains. Till that day in Milan, Martini said to him: “the time is now, nothing can be done here anymore”. In his last interview, Martini spoke of a Church “which was 200 years behind: how come it doesn’t move forward ?”

Ratzinger didn’t flee in front of the wolves, despite the attacks and poison that afflicted his pontificate from the times of Vatileaks. He was aware of the urgency to act and clean up, but felt he no longer had the strength. A jolt was needed. With his resignation “in full liberty” he said that “to govern the Barque of Peter and proclaim the Gospel, vigor of both soul and body was necessary” and that “in the last months” he had begun to lack these. The conclave a month later, would elect Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Father Fausti in the video, smiles: “When I saw Francis, Bishop of Rome, I sang the nunc dimittis – at last! I had longed for a Pope like this…since the pontificate of Gregory the Great…”

[Translation by Francesca Romana]