Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Msgr. George Gaenswein turned 50 on Sunday

I am guessing that very few men in Germany can compare to him.

News and reactions here. An interview posted on that thread:
He who stands behind the Pope

Mons. Gaenswein, you live and work side by side with the Pope. What can you tell us of your daily routine? Which decisions does he leave up to you, and which ones mst in any case need to be further considered?
The Pope's daily routine is, in general, known, but of course, there are elements that are not publicized.

In brief: Holy Mass together at 7 a.m.; breviary prayers; meditation; a pause before the Lord. Breakfast together. Then my work day begins by preparing the correspondence, looking through the oficial mail which is voluminous daily. Then I discuss things with the Holy Father, after which as a rule, I accompany him at noon to the audiences held in the Second Loggia of the Apostolic Palace.

Afterwards, we have lunch together, then a brief walk, and then we have a midday pause. Second halftime, afternoons: I go through newly arrived mail so I can bring the most important things to the Holy Father - for signature, for study, for approval.

Of course, there's a whole range of things that come to the Holy Father that he will not necessarily all see. There are things which are of second, third, fourth priority. One must shield him from a monstrous mass of mail, documents, etc. so that he can do what he really needs to do with necessary calm.

As the Pope's private secretary, you hold the most confidential position possible in the Catholic Church. What does your key position mean for you?
First, it is, of course, for me a sign of the Holy Father's trust in me, and so I try in everything that I do, say or do not say, to be worthy of this trust. And I try to do everything asked of me in such a way that I can answer my conscience clearly. After a year and three months, also, our togetherness has grown.

What influence did your parental upbringing have on your career?
My roots are with my parents, and my earliest upbringing, my first experiences of the faith, the daily example - not so much of words, but rather the simple day-to-day example of living that they set, was for me a great help, which I still have before my eyes even today, and for which I am very very thankful.

Which memories of your youth became particularly important in your later life and may have possibly shaped you?
I grew up in a little village in the southern Black Forest - it's like any other small village. We were a very lively family. I had many comrades, friends. Of course, we played sports - football was my favorite; I was also in a choir and I played the clarinet. We did many things together...So I have lots of memories of a sometimes rascally childhood which always bring me much joy.

Which character traits have been decisive for your career so far?
I'll start with the negative: I am someone who, unfortunately, does not have much patience. I need to make an effort to be patient, to force myself to be patient. But what I would consider positive are my determination, dependability, sincerity and directness. These are traits which go together, woven together like a fabric, that have given my life its inner direction.

You have been working with one of the greatest theologians in the world and have known him for 11 years. What is the difference between the Prefect for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pope?
Even in hindsight, I don't see a difference in the personality of the Cardinal Prefect and Benedict XVI. Obviously, the position can affect a person in many ways, but his personality, his kindness, his charisma [he uses the word Ausstrahlung, whose primary meaning is 'radiance'] is just as it was before.

Don't you sometimes feel something like stage fright when you are standing before the Holy Father?
Obviously, I do, on occasion. But it is also true that our daily meetings, our daily working together, has made possible a
familiaritas. But there are always situations in which I find my heart pounding more strongly!

When you look back at the first year of Benedict XVI's Pontificate, what stands out?
Certainly, the fact that the Holy Father in his words and in his actions, in his whole being, wishes to demonstrate that faith brings joy to life and for life, that joy is its most important sign, and so this runs like a thread through everything that he does, that he says, everything that one perceives in him, that one draws from him; and he wants this joy in faith to be infectious!

Were you surprised by the theme of love that he chose for his first encyclical?
Not particularly. That first encyclical has found a very very great resonance everywhere. Whoever knew Pope Benedict as a theologian, I think, was not really surprised that he chose this theme and expressed and treated it the way he did in the encyclical.

Mons. Gaenswein, I am sure you are aware that in the eyes of the public you are "beautiful Georg." How do you react to this?
Actually, the Italian press started to write about me in this flattering manner. At the beginning, I was surprised, and even a bit irritated. I couldn't decide - should I just ignore it? Should I take note? Should I react? So I simply ignored it, and over time, I have become used to it. Meanwhile, I think, they are now looking not only at the shell but also a little at what's really inside.

They say that when you were a student, the girls were all drawn to you. Was it also the other way around?
Oh yes, I had healthy senses, and if you have healthy senses, you use them. I never had any problems with the so-called weaker sex, and always had, even to this day, a very relaxed and very natural relationship with women. Of course, in my youth, there were some girls that I preferred to see.

As pious as he is well-educated - that's one of the things that has been said about you. Is that why the Pope chose you to work with him?
Piety and education, piety and theology - these things go together, that's a fact that has a great tradition. I'm glad if I am characterized as pious and educated. I would hope that both the piety and the education remain, that they last, and that they may be nourished well.

Fairness, intelligence, bravery, moderation - which of these cardinal virtues would you say best described your character?
It is always difficult to choose one from the four virtues you name, but if you must make me choose now, then I would say moderation.

With your narrowly restricted freedom now, what is it that you would not give up?
What I missed doing for over a year, to exercise myself, to do some sport, but that I have now resumed. Even if to a lesser degree than before. That I would most like to maintain. Once in a while, I go to the mountains. That I would not like to give up.

Closest collaborator of the Pope; the man who accompanies him every hour, every day, on trips; top manager at the Vatican; but also, and not the least, a priest. What do you think is a priest's most important task today?
Today, yesterday, tomorrow - the main thing is that he does what he is obliged by his ordination. Being a priest means to celebrate the Eurcharist, to administer the Sacraments, and to live as a priest should. In hindsight, there are many ways of realizing one's priestly vocation, and one of them is what I am doing, which I try with my whole heart and with all my strength to do.

You live in the center of the Church. How often do you ask yourself, what would Jesus say?
In my daily examination of conscience, I also try at night to go through all the things that I have encountered during the day. Sometimes, even for the simplest decisions, I ask myself: Did I do right? Would that have been the right thing in the eyes of the Lord? Or should I correct myself here? Of course, all this eventually gets straightened out during regular Confession.
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P.S. For a really novel animated greeting (with lots of photos) for Giorgio's 50th birthday, check out Nessuna's emerald heart on *this website*
I haven't figured out if such presentations are 'copy-able' as I can't seem to raise any 'Properties' to copy from!


[Modificato da TERESA BENEDETTA 01/08/2006 2.40]




Pope Benedict XVI's personal aide Rev. Georg Gaenswein, right, hands the pontiff a sheet of paper as he delivers his message during his Sunday Angelus prayer at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, on the outskirts of Rome, Sunday, July 30, 2006. The pontiff appealed in the name of God for an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East, hours after the deadliest attack yet in nearly three weeks of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri) AP - Jul 30 5:50 AM


Pope Benedict XVI and his personal secretary Georg Gaenswein leave the Pope's summer residence in Les Combes, Valle d'Aosta, northern Italy July 28, 2006. The Pope arrived in Valle d'Aosta on July 11 for a holiday in a mountain chalet in the shadow of Mont Blanc. REUTERS/Daniele La Monaca (ITALY)


Pope Benedict XVI , followed by his personal aide Georg Gaenswein, smiles as he leaves Les Combes d'Introd, in the Aosta Valley region, Italy, Friday, July 28, 2006. The pontiff left his vacation retreat in the italian Alps on Friday, heading to the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo in the Alban Hills, south of Rome. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
AP - Jul 28 9:48 AM


In this picture made available Wednesday, July 19, 2006, by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI, left, strolls with his personal secretary Georg Gaenswein in Martigny, Switzerland, Tuesday, July 18, 2006. Pope Benedict XVI made an unannounced visit to Switzerland, strolling across the Italian-Swiss border during his Italian Alpine holiday to visit a monastery and a kennel of St. Bernard dogs. Benedict arrived in the mountains a week earlier and his holiday ends July 28. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, Arturo Mari)


Pope Benedict XVI (R) and his personal secretary Georg Gaenswein receive a bunch of flowers from the faithful as he arrives at his summer residence in Les Combes, Valle d'Aosta, July 11, 2006. The Pope arrived in Valle d'Aosta on Tuesday for a holiday in a mountain chalet in the shadow of Mont Blanc. REUTERS/Daniele La Monaca (ITALY)

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