Sunday, June 09, 2024

Archbishop Gänswein to become papal nuncio in Baltic region?

The long limbo of Pope Benedict XVI’s former longtime personal secretary may be ending soon.

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who fell from influential papal aide to no assignment in the Catholic Church, will soon be appointed papal nuncio to the three Baltic countries, according to a report from an Italian Catholic news outlet.

The story, published by La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana and citing unnamed sources, said the archbishop will become papal nuncio to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania — a position that also includes similar duties in neighboring Latvia and Estonia.

It’s not the first time the high-profile prelate has been linked to a far-flung foreign post, however. In March 2023, a Spanish religious news website reported that Archbishop Gänswein might become papal ambassador to Costa Rica, which has not so far come to pass

More recently, in April 2024, an Argentinian newspaper, La Nación, reported that Archbishop Gänswein would soon become a papal nuncio to a country not named in the story.

A papal nuncio is a diplomatic representative of the Pope, serving as the Holy See’s ambassador to the government of a country and also typically playing a role in the selection of bishops there.

Archbishop Gänswein, 67, served as Pope Benedict XVI’s principal private secretary during his entire pontificate and retirement.

In December 2012, Benedict also appointed him prefect of the Pontifical Household, a higher-profile position that has led to appointment as a cardinal to all the previous holders of the office. 

That Vatican appointment led to Archbishop Gänswein’s ordination as an archbishop in January 2013.

He continued to hold both positions after Benedict resigned the papacy about seven weeks later, in February 2013. For about seven years, Archbishop Gänswein served both Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict.

But Archbishop Gänswein’s role diminished starting in early 2020, when Pope Francis stripped him of the powers of prefect of the Pontifical Household while allowing him to keep the title.

After Pope Benedict died at the end of December 2022, Archbishop Gänswein stayed in his Vatican apartment, until Pope Francis in April ordered him to leave the apartment and publicly implied that he should return to his native Germany, which he eventually did.

Since then, Archbishop Gänswein has lived in the Archdiocese of Freiburg in southwestern Germany, where he is originally from — without a formal assignment from the Church. He is currently an honorary canon of Freiburg Cathedral.

Archbishop Gänswein’s immediate predecessor as the papal private secretary — Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, longtime aide to St. John Paul II, now 85 — was named archbishop of Kraków and a cardinal by Benedict, after John Paul died.

No such appointment has been forthcoming for Archbishop Gänswein from Pope Francis, who has publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the German prelate.

Pope Francis has blamed the archbishop for public reports of behind-the-scenes friction between Francis and Benedict during Benedict’s retirement. 

Pope Francis has also criticized Archbishop Gänswein’s 2023 book, Nothing but the Truth: My Life Beside Benedict XVI, which was published the day of Pope Benedict’s funeral, saying it includes untrue statements and calling its appearance “very sad.”

The archbishop, dubbed “Gorgeous Georg,” is known for his active pursuits, including tennis and skiing, and for having an amateur pilot’s license.

During a book promotion appearance in August 2023, Archbishop Gänswein expressed a sense of loneliness during his exile from an active role in the Church, including at one point a wry statement: “I am here, looking for work, so to speak.”