Event in Spain headlined by Archbishop Gänswein abruptly canceled

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

The Fundación Universitaria Española (FUE) in Madrid, Spain, canceled an event announced weeks ago that was going to feature Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who was the personal secretary of Pope Benedict XVI, and did not offer an alternative date.

The archbishop emeritus of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, and the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Bernardito Aúza, had confirmed their attendance at the event. If held, it would not have been Gänswein’s first public appearance outside Germany since his arrival in the Diocese of Freiburg, where he was transferred months after the death of Benedict XVI without a specific assignment. Gänswein also addressed a meeting of Joseph Ratzinger’s Schülerkreis — or circle of students — in Rome as well as at an event organized by Aid to the Church in Need in Austria.

The conference in Spain was organized to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the presentation in Spain of the Catechism of the Catholic Church by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then-prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the future pope.

The FUE provides “instruction, preparation, and expansion of university or higher studies in theology, letters, history, law, and philosophy to young people,” according to its website.

On the occasion of the anniversary, the FUE republished a catalog of the conference given by Ratzinger that day, which included photographs of the event and a list of the foundation’s courses and publications on the successor of St. John Paul II.

In a brief statement, the Fundación Universitaria Española announced that the event billed as the “opening event of the 2023/2024 academic year” that was going to be held Oct. 18 “has been suspended for organizational reasons.”

The announcement of the event was received as a kind of “anti-Pope Francis” meeting by some media such as Religión Digital, which also accused the organizers of not having informed the archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal José Cobo. However, Religión Confidencial confirmed that Cobo had been informed of the event and that he was invited to preside.

Sources close to Gänswein told ACI Prensa that he received the news of the cancellation of his speech in Madrid “two days before” the date of the event and that this decision was partly due to the atmosphere created by “defamatory” articles in two Spanish media.

Both have received letters signed by Gänswein in which he clarifies that he is in no way “forbidden” to travel abroad from Freiburg.

He also describes as “slanderous” claims by Vida Nueva Digital that Pope Francis had offered him the leadership of a German or Italian diocese or that he himself has applied for a leadership position in the Curia.

On Jan. 12, Gänswein published a book titled “Nothing But the Truth: My Life with Benedict XVI” in which he reviews his experiences with the late pontiff. In mid-June, the Vatican reported that Benedict XVI’s former secretary was due to return to Germany on July 1.

Born in 1956 in Waldshut, southern Germany, and the son of a blacksmith, Gänswein was ordained a priest in 1984 by the then-archbishop of Freiburg, Oskar Saier, whom he served as his secretary. Gänswein holds a doctorate in canon law from the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich (Germany). He was prefect of the papal household from the end of 2012 until this past February.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA. It was updated with further details on Oct. 23, 2023.

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