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Benedict XVI surprised by IOR chief sacking, says secretary

Prelate describes relationship of mutual esteem between popes

22 October, 18:32
Benedict XVI surprised by IOR chief sacking, says secretary (ANSA) - Vatican City, October 22 - Benedict XVI's secretary admitted in an interview Tuesday that the pope emeritus was caught off-guard when the Vatican bank chairman was ousted during his tenure in May 2012.

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was sacked by the Institute of Religious Works (IOR) supervisory board amid reported disagreements over moves to get on the UN's white list of states with top credentials against money laundering.

"Benedict XVI, who had called Gotti to the IOR to bring forward the policy of transparency remained surprised, very surprised" by the no-confidence vote, prelate Georg Gaenswein told newspaper Il Messaggero, when questioned whether Benedict XVI had been kept in the dark on the matter.

Benedict XVI "esteemed and loved him, but out of respect for the competencies of those who were responsible (for the decision)," the pontiff "chose not to intervene in that moment", but later was in contact with the ex-chairman through "discreet" means.

Gotti Tedeschi was replaced seven months later by German banker Ernest von Freyberg, who has focused on transparency and international compliance as the IOR copes with questions into its past and scandal stirred by the June arrest of a man who once led a key Vatican accounting unit, Msgr Nunzio Scarano, who is accused of trying to smuggle 20 million euros into the country.

IOR ex-head Paolo Cipriani and ex-deputy director Massimo Tulli resigned following the arrest.

Gaenswein also admitted that his role as secretary, which puts him in an unprecedented position as a go-between for two popes - "a reigning pope and a pope emeritus" - has been, at times, "a nice challenge".

"I have had some difficulty, occasional disagreeable experiences regarding misunderstandings and jealousies, but in the meantime, the waters have calmed," Gaeswein said.

This said, Gaenswein assured, "Fortunately, there is a relationship of sincere esteem and fraternal affection between (Benedict XVI) and Francis I".

Gaenswein said there is no chance Benedict would ever interfere with Pope Francis's leadership.

"Anyone who knows Benedict XVI knows this risk does not exist. He has never and will never intrude on the government of the Church. It is not part of his style," Gaenswein said.