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From papal secretary to nuncio? Report of a diplomatic role for Gänswein unconfirmed

Archbishop Georg Gänswein and Pope Francis on St. Peter’s Square, May 21, 2014. / Credit: Daniel Ibañez/CNA

CNA Newsroom, Apr 12, 2024 / 10:25 am (CNA).

Not for the first time, it has been reported that Pope Francis is considering a diplomatic role for Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the former private secretary to the late Pope Benedict XVI.

According to Argentinian newspaper La Nación, Gänswein may be appointed to nuncio, or papal ambassador, though the country for this posting has not been disclosed. 

The future role of the late Benedict’s secretary has been the subject of rumor and gossip across Rome and the Church in Germany for many months. 

Previous speculations — as early as March 2023 — included the claim that Gänswein would serve as papal ambassador in Costa Rica. The eloquent prelate is fluent in several languages, including German and Italian.

Gänswein currently resides in his home region of the Archdiocese of Freiburg, southern Germany. He has been without any official role in the Church following instructions from Pope Francis that he should not live in Rome.

While speculation is again running rife on social media about Gänswein possibly being sent to an exotic posting, neither the German prelate nor the Vatican have confirmed an appointment. 

Though sidelined officially, the 67-year-old has been warmly received by ordinary Catholics in Bavaria and elsewhere and holds the title of an honorary canon in Freiburg Cathedral.

The archbishop traveled to Rome on Dec. 31, 2023, to mark the first anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s death, where he celebrated Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica.

The relationship between Gänswein and the current pope has been notably strained. In a recent Spanish-language interview book, “El Sucesor,” Pope Francis went so far as to say Benedict was “being used” by Gänswein in the context of the publication of a “tell-all” book

Before his July 2023 departure from Rome, Gänswein spent many years in the Eternal City: He served as Benedict XVI’s personal secretary from 2003 until the Bavarian pope’s death on Dec. 31, 2022. Benedict also appointed him to serve as the prefect of the papal household in 2012, a role he carried into the pontificate of Pope Francis.

Hailing from the Black Forest region of Germany, the son of a blacksmith was ordained a priest in 1984 by Archbishop Oskar Saier in Freiburg and holds a doctorate in canon law from Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich.

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