Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
See updates to this report below:
The Holy See has yet to release the full text of the letter Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI sent to Msgr. Dario Vigano, the prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, on 11 short books on The Theology of Pope Francis, but it has now been published this afternoon by Sandro Magister on his blog, Settimo Cielo.
In the letter dated Feb. 7 and written in response to a request from Msgr. Viganò on Jan. 12, Benedict praises the initiative, saying the books oppose and react to a “foolish prejudice” in which Francis is “just a practical man without particular theological or philosophical formation, while I have been only a theorist of theology with little understanding of the concrete life of a Christian today.”
He also says the books “show, rightly, that Pope Francis is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation, and they therefore help to see the inner continuity between the two pontificates, despite all the differences of style and temperament.”
But in the paragraph at the end, Benedict admits to not having fully read the 11 volumes due to “physical reasons” and other commitments.
It’s not clear why the Vatican did not publish the full text but only an obscure photo of the first page, with the final paragraph covered by the 11 books and Benedict's signature at the bottom (see above), although Msgr. Viganò did read out the full text of the letter at yesterday's presentation.
The Register contacted Benedict XVI's secretary Archbishop Georg Gänswein yesterday for clarification of the letter and to explain what “inner continuity” means but he has not responded.
Here below is the full text (my translation):
Rev, Mons. Dario Edoardo Viganò
Prefect, Secretariat for Communication
February 7, 2018
Thank you for your kind letter of 12 January and the attached gift of the eleven small volumes edited by Roberto Repole.
I applaud this initiative that wants to oppose and react to the foolish prejudice in which Pope Francis is just a practical man without particular theological or philosophical formation, while I have been only a theorist of theology with little understanding of the concrete life of a Christian today.
The small volumes show, rightly, that Pope Francis is a man of profound philosophical and theological formation, and they therefore help to see the inner continuity between the two pontificates, despite all the differences of style and temperament.
However, I don’t feel like writing a short and dense theological passage on them because throughout my life it has always been clear that I would write and express myself only on books I had read really well. Unfortunately, if only for physical reasons, I am unable to read the eleven volumes in the near future, especially as other commitments await me that I have already made.
I am sure you will understand and cordially greet you.
UPDATE March 14:
Quoting an anonymous Vatican spokesman, the Associated Press reported Wednesday that the Vatican admitted to having “altered a photo sent to the media of a letter from retired Pope Benedict XVI about Pope Francis.” The AP added that the “manipulation changed the meaning of the image in a way that violated photojournalist industry standards.”
The report said that the Vatican admitted to blurring “the two final lines of the first page” where Benedict explains that he “didn't actually read the books in question” and “cannot contribute a theological assessment of Francis” as he had other commitments.
The AP added: “The Vatican didn't explain why it blurred the lines other than to say it never intended for the full letter to be released. In fact, the entire second page of the letter is covered in the photo by a stack of books, with just Benedict's tiny signature showing, to prove its authenticity.”
AP’s report continued that the missing content “significantly altered the meaning of the quotes the Vatican chose to highlight, which were widely picked up by the media.” The suggestion given was that Benedict “had read the volume, agreed with it and given it his full endorsement and assessment,” it said.
The news agency said the doctoring was “significant” because news media “rely on Vatican photographers for images of the Pope at events that are closed to independent media.”
The AP made the point that as with most independent news media, it follows “strict standards that forbid digital manipulation of photos” and that “no element should be digitally added to or subtracted from any photograph.”
This episode is particularly embarrassing for the Vatican, coming barely a month since it issued Pope Francis’ message for this year’s World of Social Communications in which the Holy Father called for a “journalism of peace” in an era of “fake news.”
UPDATE March 14:
The Register contacted Msgr. Vigano’s office this morning to ask if we could publish the letter that he had sent to Benedict XVI on Jan. 12, in which he asked the Pope emeritus to write about the book series.
A secretary to Msgr. Vigano responded by saying “we have a picture of the letter. You will find it attached [it was the doctored photo of Benedict's letter, published above], together with a shot that shows Msgr. Viganò at the moment he read it during the conference on Monday.”
When we followed up, restating we were requesting a copy of the letter Msgr. Vigano sent and not the one sent by the Pope emeritus, we received no response.