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Archbishop Gänswein on Baltic appointment: Ready for ‘the front’

Archbishop Georg Gänswein was the personal secretary of the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. | Bohumil Petrík

Archbishop Gänswein on Baltic appointment: Ready for ‘the front’

By AC Wimmer

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, former personal secretary to Pope Benedict XVI, has spoken about his new appointment as apostolic nuncio to Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, describing it as “a new possibility” to carry out his apostolate “in a completely different area.”

In an interview with EWTN News on the sidelines of the “Benedict XVI Forum” in Altötting, Bavaria, the prelate said he was approaching the role “with confidence, with trust in God, but also with great joy.”

“I see the appointment as a new opportunity,” Gänswein, who will turn 68 on July 30, told EWTN. “I gladly accept it, even if the dear God now wants me to be there, which I hadn’t thought of at all.”

The archbishop acknowledged that he had never worked in a nunciature before and did not come from the so-called “diplomatic career” track. However, he noted that in his roles as private secretary and prefect of the Papal Household, he had “a lot of contact with the diplomatic world.”

Regarding potential challenges in his new post, Gänswein said: “The Baltic countries are of course very important geopolitically, also for Europe. I don’t have any concrete ideas yet where my priorities will be. That will emerge, and I’m looking forward to it.”

The Baltic states have a rich Catholic history, with Lithuania particularly notable for its strong Catholic identity. However, the region faces significant geopolitical challenges, especially in light of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

‘If it’s the front, it’s the front’

Speaking to EWTN, Gänswein emphasized a spiritual approach when asked how he was preparing for the assignment: “I take it all into prayer and I’m already trying to read a little about the countries, to inquire. Everything else, I think, will become apparent.”

The archbishop acknowledged the geopolitical situation in the region, particularly its proximity to the ongoing war in Ukraine. NATO has significantly increased its presence, sending thousands of soldiers from Germany and other nations in response to Russia’s heightened threat — despite divergent views on European defense.

While admitting he had no personal experience of the situation, the German prelate said: “If you say that’s where the front is, and our loving God wants me there, then I’ll gladly go there. If it’s the front, it’s the front. In any case, it’s a place where Our Lord will also be active.”

Reflecting on Benedict’s legacy

The interview took place at the first-ever “Benedict XVI Forum” in Altötting, the famous Marian pilgrimage site in Bavaria. The event, which took place from July 10–15 and was visited by Cardinal Kurt Koch and several experts, explored the Apostles’ Creed using Joseph Ratzinger’s 1968 bestseller “Introduction to Christianity,” reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

Gänswein spoke to EWTN of his deep connection to the place, recalling Benedict XVI’s visit there as pope in 2006.

“When I arrived here yesterday, I had the impression it was only the day before yesterday,” he said. “It was also beautiful weather, but it was so full of emotions, so full of the spirit that is palpable here, the spirit of the Mother of God. It’s like flipping a switch.”

The diplomatic posting marks a new chapter for Gänswein, following a period of uncertainty after Benedict XVI’s death. In June 2023, he was ordered to leave the Vatican without a new assignment, which sparked much speculation about his future role in the Church. 

Reflecting on his years of service to Benedict XVI on the weekend, Gänswein described it as “a matter of conscience” to pass on the late pope’s legacy. 

“Because that is a great gift for Catholics, the Church, and people,” he said. “And to cultivate this gift is one of my great inner tasks, which I am happy to continue to do — and I hope — for a long time to come.”

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