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Nuncio: Pope's German Critics Harm Themselves More than Benedict

08/16/2012 Comments (2)

Archbishop Jean-Claude Perisset

– Bischöfliche Pressestelle Hildesheim

Pope Benedict XVI is pained by the closed attitude Germans sometimes show him, and views their critical stance as a particularly German phenomenon, the country’s apostolic nuncio has said.

"The Pope suffers from the sometimes closed attitude shown towards him in Germany," said Archbishop Jean-Claude Perisset, according to an interview in Die Zeit, Aug. 15th. But he added that their rejection harms the critics more than the Pope. "It's a great loss to the Catholic Church in Germany that they hear so little of him," he said.

Next month will mark the first anniversary since the Holy Father made his historic official visit to his homeland – a trip widely praised for his papal addresses in the German parliament and other official events, but which his critics maintained failed to electrify the people, particularly the young.

The nuncio, who is French-Swiss, went on to say the Pope views Germany’s critical stance as a specifically German phenomenon. “Each comes with his own opinion and thinks he knows better,” the archbishop noted. “That is perhaps especially pronounced in Germany.”

In one of the few public remarks by a Vatican diplomat on the Vatileaks affair, Archbishop Perisset said the scandal is making diplomatic work “difficult”.

“The bad thing is that one can no longer trust those even in one’s closest circles,” he remarked in a separate interview with Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger . “As nuncio, I’m going to have to think even more precisely about what I can put down on paper.”  But the 73 year old Holy See diplomat, who has been nuncio to Germany since 2007, said the leaking of confidential documents did not particularly surprise him. “People act as people, wherever people are,” he said.

He also denied one particular Vatileaks allegation: that Benedict XVI felt “piqued” by Angela Merkel’s call for the Pope to clarify his position on the Holocaust after he lifted the excommunication of SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson in 2009, and that he chastised the hierarchy for failing to take a stand against the “interference” of the German Chancellor.

“I only found out about this from the reports about Vatileaks,” Perisset said. “According to these, the Pope is to have asked me why I hadn’t protested against the words of the Chancellor, but he asked no such question, nor was there any instruction to protest.”

Rather, Périsset said he showed understanding for Merkel's criticism as relations between Christians and Jews are "always a very sensitive issue” for the German government and society.

He said he explained to the Chancellor “in a milder way” the attitude of the Holy See. “What was generally not taken note of at the time was that a few days after the Chancellor had made her criticism, she personally called the Pope to apologise," he recalled. "So what was better in the end? A sharp note of protest to exert pressure, or the careful explanation of the facts, that leads to a positive reaction?”

Filed under angela merkel, benedict xvi, diplomacy, germany, nuncio, richard williamson, vatileaks

About Edward Pentin

Edward Pentin
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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