Though Benedict's comments had no impact on the published article, the revelation is further evidence of the remarkable and unprecedented collaboration between the two popes, who stay in touch by phone, in person and by sending notes back and forth across the Vatican gardens via Gaenswein.Knowing Benedict's careful and clear style of writing, I'm sure that Benedict's comments were both kind and insightful, and it's interesting to know that there is this kind of substantive give and taking going on between the two men. I think it serves to underscore what has been my impression: that whatever their differences in style and emphasis the two men understand themselves to be in complete agreement on substance. The conflict between them and their visions for the Church is a product of outsiders reading their views onto the two men.
Gaenswein told ZDF that Francis had given him a first copy of the interview to forward on to Benedict, and received a four-page letter from the retired pope three days later.
"He did his homework — he read it and, in accordance with his successor's request, he did indeed offer some thoughts and some remarks on certain comments or certain questions on which he thought something additional could perhaps be said in another place," Gaenswein recalled.
"Of course I won't say what, but that was interesting," Gaenswein said.
Francis has said he relies on his predecessor's sage advice and has increasingly coaxed Benedict out of his secluded retirement to participate more in the public life of the church.
At the same time, I can't help finding this a bit odd. While I have complete faith in Benedict's humility and discretion, I am not crazy about the idea of a pope emeritus as an office. That may simply be my instinctual reaction to the unfamiliar, but there it is.