Archbishop Georg Gänswein, the personal secretary of Benedict XVI, has said that a story about the pope resigning after a “mystical experience” was completely invented.
“It was invented from alpha to omega,” the archbishop said in an interview on Italy’s Canale 5 television news. “There is nothing true in the article.”
In a report Zenit, a Catholic news agency, said someone who had visited Benedict XVI “a few weeks ago” had asked him why he resigned. “God told me to,” the retired pope was quoted as replying before “immediately clarifying that it was not any kind of apparition of phenomenon of that kind, but rather ‘a mystical experience’ in which the Lord gave rise in his heart to an ‘absolute desire’ to remain alone with him in prayer”.
When Benedict XVI announced his resignation in February, he said he had done so after intense prayer and intended to live the rest of his life praying and studying.
Some Vatican officials and Vatican-watchers were surprised by Zenit’s report of Benedict XVI telling an anonymous visitor that his decision was the result of some form of extraordinary “mystical experience” rather than a decision made after long and careful thought and deep prayer. Many Catholics might consider that kind of intense prayer a “mystical experience”, although not necessarily something extraordinary.
Explaining his decision to resign to a group of cardinals at the Vatican in February, Benedict XVI had said: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.”