Fr. Georg has the task of guiding Bergoglio in his journey through the Vatican's secrets
A discreet and unexpected presence on the eve of the Papal election, Fr. Georg has been constantly by Francis’ side during his first public appearances: from his visit to Saint Mary Major to pray, to the meeting with journalists in the Paul VI Audience Hall. The role of Archbishop Gänswein at the beginning of this Pontificate goes beyond that of Prefect of the Pontifical Household; indeed, his sentimental involvement is evident and says a lot about his personality. It also brings to mind the words which, a few months ago, he had said regarding his work with Benedict XVI saying that he wanted to be transparent like glass so as not to obscure the Pope in any way.
Ratzinger's closest collaborator was unable to hold the tears back that afternoon on 28 February when together (like father and son) they left the apartment of the third Loggia. When the seals were finally taken off on Thursday afternoon the experience must have been just as an emotional for him: returning there with Francis, who needed his help to push the door which would not open. Once inside, the memories must have come flooding back to him and Fr. Georg was so rapt that at one point the Regent of the Pontifical Household, Fr.Leonardo Sapienza, had to bring him back to reality by telling him to turn the light on.
This said, Gänswein really likes this Pontiff, who is so different from "his", and yesterday, when Francis said that the Holy Spirit inspired Benedict XVI's decision for the good of the Church, Fr. Georg was truly moved. While under the spotlight, Mgr. Georg always accompanies the new Pope in ceremonies and hearings, and then, behind the scenes, he put the knowledge he had accumulated during his 8 years of service to Ratzinger, at his disposal.
Even on issues left pending: the Vatileaks scandal, the return of the Lefebvrists to communion with Rome, the reform of the Curia, the sacred finances. He is the "ferryman" between two pontificates. An entirely new figure in ecclesiastical history, Fr. Georg is the point of contact between the reigning Pope and the Emeritus one. He preserves his function as Ratzinger's Secretary and continues to live with him at Castel Gandolfo, but at the same time he runs the Pontificalis Domus of his successor Bergoglio. Beyond any protocol, he substantially acts as a transmission belt in the difficult starting phase of the pontificate.
"He is performing a very delicate task," explains a head of a dicastery, "Fr. Georg is with Francis not so much because of his current tasks in the Apostolic Palace, but because he is helping in the handover of delicate topics, on Ratzinger's behalf." In short, the presence (and advice) of Mgr. Gaenswein is how Benedict XVI is helping Bergoglio through the meanders of the Roman Curia and is "protecting" him through the slippery transition phase. "It is Fr. Georg who has the Vatileaks dossier to be delivered to Francis", explains the cardinal, referring to the report by the three investigating cardinals Herranz, Tomko, and De Giorgi on the theft of documents from the papal apartment.
Tuesday, Gänswein was Ratzinger's eyes at the moment of the extra omnes; he was one of the last ones to leave the Sistine Chapel when the Conclave got underway. Already on Thursday he was with the newly elected Pope in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome and then he was at the mass pro Ecclesia co-celebrated in the chapel frescoed by Michelangelo with the 114 cardinal electors. Friday, in the Clementine Hall, he participated in the cardinals' greeting ceremony, where many of the cardinals delivered letters and gifts for the new Pontiff. Francis entrusted them to Gänswein, who, on his right, acted as the imaginary bridge to the Pope Emeritus repeatedly mentioned by Francis. Fr. Georg was also the protagonist of a curious unscheduled episode: the Polish Nycz, after the act of homage to Bergoglio, did not return directly to his place, but stopped to ask Fr. Georg to bring his greetings to Ratzinger (while Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Wojtyla's successor in Krakow and Georg's predecessor in his Vatican tasks, had not done this). As Prefect of the Pontifical Household, Fr. Georg manages the Pontiff’s agenda of commitments, but he also continues to be the right-hand man of his predecessor.
Meanwhile, Fr. Georg is giving Francis good tips on how to move within the Curia environment and on which figures could be considered for possible key positions.
Some traditionalist bloggers seem to want to suggest that Pope Francis' closest friends and confidantes are of the progressive persuasion, but his right hand man at present is allegedly a former SSPX seminarian according to several media reports:
Georg Gänswein, despite his athletic and youthful appearance, is extremely conservative. But he has been careful to tone down his “traditionalist” side. Shortly after the election of Benedict XVI in 2005, all references to the papal secretary’s life prior to his new-found fame disappeared from the internet. Only later did any personal information about him gradually find its way back into the public forum. One reason for this, it appears, is that he initially began his seminary training at the international seminary in Ecône (Switzerland) run by the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), or Lefebvrists. This was finally reported in 2009 by French magazine L’Express and repeated on numerous, mostly Vatican-friendly internet sites. No one at the Vatican has ever officially denied it.
Archbishop Gänswein has been credibly reported to offer the TLM daily, and is personally tasked with schooling Pope Francis on the Vatileaks dossier.
I've received correspondence from NewCatholic at Rorate Caeli to the effect that the claim that Archbishop Gänswein attended the SSPX Econe seminary is a media fabrication.
Archbishop Gänswein’s attendance at the SSPX Seminary in Econe was reported in the media at these links, first in 2009 then in 2012:
Vatican: Les Clefs d'une Crise
Power Behind the Papal Throne
Neither of these reports were contradicted by the Vatican or by the SSPX. The claim is repeated in the Wikipedia file for Archbishop Gänswein and has not been amended.
If anyone can verify or refute this claim, I will gladly amend this post as needed.
An SSPX priest, Fr. Robert Jackson of Syracuse NY, has kindly weighed in:
"I attended Econe for 5 years. To the best of my knowledge your man did not attend Econe at any point."This post has been amended as per his request.