ROME — Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI offered reflections on his decision to retire from the papacy eight years ago, insisting his conscience is clear.
In an interview published Monday in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Benedict insisted that there are not “two popes” and that his decision to retire in 2013 was not the result of coercion or made under outside pressure but was made freely.
“It was a difficult decision but I made with full awareness, and I believe I did well,” the former pope stated. “Some of my friends who are a bit ‘fanatical’ are still angry; they did not want to accept my choice.”
“I am thinking about the conspiracy theories that followed it: some said it was because of the Vatileaks scandal, some of a conspiracy by the gay lobby, some said it was because of the case of the conservative Lefebvrian theologian, Richard Williamson,” Benedict added. “They did not want to believe it was a conscious decision, but my conscience is clear.”
Pope Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy on February 11, an act that became effective on February 28, paving the way for a papal conclave and the election of Pope Francis on March 13.
“There are not two popes,” he told the paper’s editor, Luciano Fontana. “There is only one pope.”
In the interview, Benedict also spoke about Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to Iraq.
“I think it is a very important trip,” he said. “Unfortunately, it falls at a very difficult moment that also makes it a dangerous trip for security reasons and also because of COVID-19. There is also the unstable Iraqi situation. I will accompany Francis with my prayers.”
Asked his impression of Joe Biden, only the second Catholic U.S. president after John F. Kennedy, Benedict expressed some hesitation.
“It’s true, he’s Catholic and observant and personally he is against abortion,” he said. “But as president, he tends to present himself in continuity with the line of the Democratic Party, and on gender politics we have not yet fully understood what his position is.”