Saturday, April 12, 2008

Meet Monsignor Georg Gänswein - Benedict's personal secretary

"The Heartthrob from the Vatican", by Jeff Israely Time April 5, 2008:

When Pope Benedict XVI touches down for his first papal visit in the United States next week, you may notice that he doesn't have the same onstage flair as his predecessor, John Paul II. But you may also begin to notice a very handsome man of the cloth never far from the pontiff's side. That would be Monsignor Georg Gänswein, the Pope's personal secretary, responsible for everything from deciding who gets to see Benedict, to keeping His Holiness on schedule, to discreetly handing him his papal reading glasses just before a homily or other public discourse.
Unfortunately, Msgr. Gänswein's handsome features have often brought him undue attention of a superfluous nature from the tabloids:
Italians have taken notice of Gänswein, and nicknamed him "Bel Giorgio," which Americans might translate as: Gorgeous George. Paparazzi have snapped photos of him playing tennis in his tennis whites, while the Roman and Bavarian press eagerly report his bravura on the ski slopes and appearances at evening Church functions. Nevertheless, despite the glamour imposed on him by the celebrity press, the tall, athletic and dirty-blond Monsignor in his clerical black, concentrates on his pivotal but quiet job choreographing papal appearances. And that is how Americans will see him, in a supporting role buoyed by his scene-stealing good looks.
Like Benedict, Msgr. Gänswein is "academic by training, with a doctorate in canon law"; in 1996, he began working for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith headed by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. From our archives, two informative interviews with the Monsignor:
  • Interview with Msgr. Georg Gaenswein Sueddeutsche Zeitung July 26, 2007 (kindly translated from German by Gerald Augustinus). The interviewer, Peter Seewald, is the co-author of several book-length interviews with then-Cardinal Ratzinger - Salt of the Earth and God and the World. On the state of the Pope's health:
    PS: When he was a cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger wanted to retire, stating he was exhausted.

    MG: With his election as Pope something happened that he neither strived for nor wanted. But I am convinced that, as he by and by surrendered to God's will, the grace of the office in his person and his actions has shown effect and still is. . . .

    On his own service to the Holy Father:
    PS: The son of a blacksmith from a 450 people village in the Black Forest who now travels with the Holy Father in a helicopter and shares the concerns of the global Church (Weltkirche) - does one ask oneself: Why me? What does God want from me?

    MG: I asked myself this very question, and not just once. It is a task that you cannot plan. In promising the Holy Father fidelity and obedience, I tried to answer that question. In that, I see a message from God, to face this task without reservations.

    On the unfortunate caricatures of him by the tabloids and the ogling of adoring fans:
    PS: You're probably the first Papal secretary in history that's also in the spotlight next to the Pontifex: People Magazine swoons over the "Sunnyboy in the cassock", the Swiss Weltwoche calls you the "most handsome man in a soutane". Donatella Versace dedicated a fashion line to you. Does this image as a "ladykiller" (ie someone who looks like one) bother you ?

    MG: It didn't make me blush, but it irritated me a bit. It doesn't hurt and it was flattering, and it's no sin. I'd never been confronted like this with my "shell". Then I noticed that it was largely an expression of sympathy - a bonus, not a malus; I can handle that well. But, I don't want that people don't just look at me but also acknowledge the substance.

  • Interview with Msgr. Ganswein in (circa. August 2007), kindly translated by Benodette of the Benedict Forum.