Benedict XVI: Battle of the Memoirs

February 17, 2023

The Holy See has just sponsored the publication of two memoirs dedicated to the late German pope. Two books that contrast with the one published by Bishop Georg Gänswein a few weeks earlier, who did not hesitate to put into opposition the figures of Benedict XVI and the current successor of Peter, Pope Francis.

Is the war of memoirs taking place, in Rome? One thing remains certain: the Vatican communications apparatus only took a few weeks to react to the publication of the book by Bishop Georg Gänswein, the man who was probably the closest to Josef Ratzinger (Benedict XVI).

His work Nothing but the Truth, beyond recounting many moving memories, cast a stone in the gardens of St. Martha’s house at the beginning of 2023, evoking the deep “disagreement” of Benedict XVI about several reforms of the current pontiff. The latter is even accused of having “broken the liturgical peace” initiated by his predecessor.

To respond to this literary earthquake, two pens were summoned: that of Msgr. Alfred Xuereb – the last private secretary to Pope Benedict XVI before his resignation – and that of Orazio La Rocca, a renowned Vaticanist who worked for many transalpine media, including La Repubblica.

The two works were published simultaneously and announced at a press conference held on February 9, 2023 by Vatican News, the digital information portal of the Holy See.

Archbishop Xuereb's memoirs, entitled My Days in the Company of Benedict XVI, take the form of a diary written on a daily basis, bringing the reader into intimate contact with the Bavarian pope.

Orazio La Rocca's book, entitled The Choice of Ratzinger: “No, I Did Not Flee”, retraces the many personal encounters with Benedict XVI, with whom the Vaticanist was rewarded before and after his elevation to the sovereign pontificate.

The two memoirs strive to minimize, even dilute, the scope of the testimony of Gänswein against Pope Francis by refocusing all the attention on the person of Benedict XVI.

Thus, Archbishop Xuereb warns the reader from the outset: “Simplicity and humanity are the traits with which we must remember Benedict XVI, without allowing ourselves to be influenced by false comments.… In my book, you will not find any background, any confidential information or little phrase pronounced in confidence.” The allusion to Msgr. Gänswein is thinly veiled.

“Two books to discover the great humanity of Benedict XVI, without instrumentalization,” reads the Vatican News headlines. The memoir war is underway.