Benedict’s personal secretary searches for five cousins who are heirs of the late pontiff

Archbishop Georg Gänswein Archbishop Georg Gänswein was the personal secretary of the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. | Credit: ACI Press

Five German cousins of the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI are the direct heirs to his personal property, the pope’s personal secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, told Italian media after a Mass celebrated in Rome on Sunday at Santa Maria Consolatrice parish, Cardinal Ratzinger’s titular church.

Benedict XVI died Dec. 31, 2022.

The archbishop explained that he thought there were two direct heirs. However, he was surprised to learn that there are three more, hitherto unknown. “This has been very interesting for me. I thought he had two relatives, two cousins, but there are five cousins in total,” he said.

“By law I have to write to the cousins who are the closest relatives, and also by law I have to ask them: ‘Do you accept the inheritance or do you not accept it?’” he told various Italian national media.

In addition, in a statement to the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, Gänswein noted that “other personal items, from watches to pens, from paintings to liturgical items, were included in a list meticulously drawn up by Benedict XVI before he died.”

He recounted that part of these personal items have been delivered to people close to him: “He hasn’t forgotten anyone; collaborators, secretaries, seminarians, students, drivers, parish priests, friends.”

Gänswein also explained that the rights to his books will remain with the Vatican and a portion of them will go to the Joseph Ratzinger Vatican Foundation.

Personal documents destroyed

As for the most personal documents of the pope emeritus, such as letters and notes, his former secretary confirmed that according to the will of Benedict XVI, they have been destroyed.

Gänswein clarified that there are no longer any unpublished writings of the pope emeritus and that Benedict XVI’s last book is “What Is Christianity?” published posthumously in January.

“A shame? Yes, I told him that, too, but he gave me this instruction, there is no going back. There are no unpublished writings left,” Gänswein affirmed.

Finally, he spoke about his future and noted that “the Catholic Church is vast geographically, but also culturally.”

“Pope Francis has not yet given me any responsibilities. He must reflect and then he will tell me. I am available for the Church, and I am loyal and faithful,” he concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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