VATICAN CITY — The retired pope's personal secretary came forward and said the recent and widely circulated news story claiming that Benedict XVI stepped down after having a “mystical experience” is completely false.
“It was invented, from the alpha to the omega,” Archbishop Georg Gänswein said.
“There is nothing true in this article,” he told journalist Alessandra Buzzetti in an interview on Italian television channel Tg5.
Zenit, a Rome-based Catholic news outlet, had reported Aug. 19 that Benedict XVI resigned after having a mystical experience in which God told him to do so.
The agency said that the former pope told a visitor to Mater Ecclesiae, the monastery in the Vatican where he currently resides, that God “did not speak to him in a vision, but in a mystical experience.”
The National Catholic Register contacted Zenit, but the agency declined to comment on this story.
Tg5 interviewed Archbishop Gänswein on Aug. 25 in the town of Castel Gandolfo, where the papal summer residence is located.
Benedict XVI and his personal secretary had traveled there from the Vatican to celebrate the town's feast of Our Lady of the Lake the day before, which included an evening Mass presided by the pope emeritus.
“The pope emeritus is very well, and he was here to visit the palace, because there was a small concert, and to take a beautiful walk in the gardens and have dinner there,” the archbishop said.
On Feb. 11, Benedict XVI announced his resignation, which went into effect on Feb. 28. He then stayed in Castel Gandolfo as the cardinals elected a new pope.
After Pope Francis was chosen, Benedict XVI moved back to the Vatican to reside in a monastery along with Archbishop Gänswein, who is also prefect of the papal household.
The archbishop reflected that, annually for the last eight years, he and Benedict XVI, along with others from the Vatican, has come to Castel Gandolfo for “a few weeks” — an “experience,” he said, “that we now miss.”