Archbishop Gänswein and Pope emeritus Benedict XVI / Credit: EWTN/Paul Badde, Mazur/

Denver Newsroom, Jul 5, 2022 / 18:10 pm (CNA).

The personal secretary of Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, could not hold back tears as he recalled what the pope emeritus once told him about his journey to heaven.

The scene took place at the Nymphenburg Palace in Munich, Germany, during a June celebration organized by the Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI Foundation for the 95th birthday of the pope emeritus. The event was broadcast in German on EWTN.

Gänswein was visibly choked up as he recalled that Benedict XVI once told him that “I would never have believed that the last stretch of the journey that would take me from the Mater Ecclesiae monastery (where he currently resides) to the gates of heaven with St. Peter would be so long.”

Benedict XVI turned 95 on April 16, a little more than nine years after he resigned from the papacy on Feb. 28, 2013.

Gänswein, 65, currently prefect of the papal household, has accompanied Benedict XVI as his personal secretary since 2003, when the pope emeritus was still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

The German prelate said Benedict XVI made the comment to him “a few years ago” while they were talking about “the burden and hardship of old age and the criticism of his person and his work that flares up again and again.”

“Benedict responded to the important questions and challenges of the time frankly and convincingly and always in the light of the Incarnation,” Gänswein said.

He then noted that today, “the pope emeritus is a very old man, physically frail and, thank God, still with an alert, wide-awake mind and gaze.”

Benedict’s voice, he said, “is becoming increasingly low and incomprehensible,” noting that “the last few years have sapped his strength.”

Through it all, he continued, “he has preserved the humble serenity of his heart.”

Gänswein also said Benedict’s humor “shines forth again and again” and noted “his personal meekness, which has always been a trademark of his personality.”

“He was as happy as a child when he was informed about today’s ceremony. And he asked me to send all of you cordial blessings,” Gänswein concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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