In these extracts from his new book-length interview, the Pope Emeritus reflects on his ‘guillotine’ election, his achievements as Pope and his tendency to ‘think too much’

Why did you not name yourself John Paul III?

I felt that would be inappropriate, because a standard had been set there which I couldn’t match. I could not be a John Paul III. I was a different character, cut from a different cloth; I had a different sort of charisma, or rather a non-charisma.

Suddenly: Christ’s vicar on earth. What inner change was going on there?

Yes, there was the thought: no, I need still more help from him. One knows: I really am not that. But if he puts the yoke on my shoulders, he must also help me bear it.

You spoke of the cardinals’ ballot as the falling of a “guillotine”. Did you regret that later?

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