Stats for September 2011

I think we recovered from the August dip: with 4,592 views we’re back at a level not seen since May. So that’s nice. Oddly enough, no single post was responsible for a significant percentage of those views. They’re all at fairly low numbers, from which I can only include that many people were interested in many things, if the search terms didn’t tell me otherwise. Boy, the Gänswein fan club was out in force again. Especially in the days of the papal visit to Germany, this blog lodged literally many hundreds of searches on this name or variations thereof.

Let s see if ‘Gorgeous George’ pushed any blog posts into the top 10:

1: Het opmerkzaam hart – Overwegingen over de basis van de wet 57
2: Het probleem Medjugorje 55
3: In Germany, childish behaviour before the pope comes 46
4: Impresive words from the Holy Father to the German parliament 33
5: Under the Roman Sky 31
6: Before Liempde, Bishop Mutsaerts outlines his points 29
7: A Twitter ordination, Homily at the Mass on the occasion of leaving Rotterdam 27
8: Four days before Germany, Holy Father poses the question of God 26
9: A thank you note from the archbishop 25
10: The World Youth Days’ positive result for Madrid 24

The privilege to be blunt – Pope Benedict points out the common ecumenical goal

Flanked by the president of the German Lutheran Church, Nikolaus Schneider, Master of Ceremonies Guido Marini, personal secretary Georg Gänswein, and members of the Council of the Lutheran Church, the holy father arrives for an ecumenical celebration

Closing the day yesterday with a bit of translation, I can now offer you another wonderful piece of writing by the pope. Yesterday, he spoke to representatives of the Council of the Lutheran church in Erfurt. He did so at the convent where Martin Luther became a priest and lived as a monk for seven years. Naturally, the focus of his address was ecumenism and, more narrowly, the things Catholics and Lutherans share, which should always be the focus in ecumenical relations.

It certainly looks like the holy father feels right at home in his native Germany, and he knows exactly which buttons to push to get the message across. Sometimes his wording almost seems blunt, as in this address’ section about evil being no trivial matter. It’s serious and wonderful to read.

As ever, you may choose between the text in English or in Dutch.

Photo credit: Norbert Neetz – Pool/Getty Images

Papal soundbytes – Croatia

As usual, here is my selection of words spoken by Pope Benedict XVI during his papal visit to Croatia last weekend. You can read all the texts in various languages here. My soundbytes are just that: a choice selection of passages to reflect upon.

Pope Benedict XVI shakes hands with the pilot who flew him to Zagreb

Convinced witness and active dynamism in Europe

In the face of the challenges posed by today’s culture – marked as it is by social differentiation and instability, and by an individualism that gives rise to a vision of life without obligations and a constant search for “private space” – there is a need for convinced witness and active dynamism aimed at promoting the fundamental moral values that underpin social living and the identity of the old Continent. (Welcoming ceremony, Pleso International Airport, Zagreb, 4 June)

Hope for the future

Truly, the great achievements of the modern age – the recognition and guarantee of freedom of conscience, of human rights, of the freedom of science and hence of a free society – should be confirmed and developed while keeping reason and freedom open to their transcendent foundation, so as to ensure that these achievements are not undone, as unfortunately happens in not a few cases. The quality of social and civil life and the quality of democracy depend in large measure on this “critical” point – conscience, on the way it is understood and the way it is informed. If, in keeping with the prevailing modern idea, conscience is reduced to the subjective field to which religion and morality have been banished, then the crisis of the West has no remedy and Europe is destined to collapse in on itself. If, on the other hand, conscience is rediscovered as the place in which to listen to truth and good, the place of responsibility before God and before fellow human beings – in other words, the bulwark against all forms of tyranny – then there is hope for the future. (Meeting with representatives of civil society, political, cultural and business world, diplomatic corps and religious leaders, National Croatian Theatre, Zagreb, 4 June)

Msgr. Georg Gänswein and the Holy Father during the meeting at the National Theatre.

Conscience at the root of society

It is by forming consciences that the Church makes her most specific and valuable contribution to society. It is a contribution that begins in the family and is strongly reinforced in the parish, where infants, children and young people learn to deepen their knowledge of the sacred Scriptures, the “great codex” of European culture; at the same time they learn what it means for a community to be built upon gift, not upon economic interests or ideology, but upon love, “the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity” (Caritas in Veritate, 1). This logic of gratuitousness, learnt in infancy and adolescence, is then lived out in every area of life, in games, in sport, in interpersonal relations, in art, in voluntary service to the poor and the suffering, and once it has been assimilated it can be applied to the most complex areas of political and economic life so as to build up a polis that is welcoming and hospitable, but at the same time not empty, not falsely neutral, but rich in humanity, with a strongly ethical dimension. It is here that the lay faithful are called to give generously of the formation they have received, guided by the principles of the Church’s Social Doctrine, for the sake of authentic secularism, social justice, the defence of life and of the family, freedom of religion and education. (idem)

Jesus speaks to you!

In the Gospel of John, Jesus asks his disciples: “What are you looking for?” (Jn 1:38). Young friends, these words, this question reaches beyond time and space, it challenges every man and woman who is open to life and in search of the right path… And, startlingly, the voice of Jesus also says to you: “what are you looking for?” Jesus speaks to you today, through the Gospel and his Holy Spirit. He is your contemporary! He seeks you even before you seek him! While fully respecting your freedom, he approaches each one of you and offers himself as the authentic and decisive response to the longing deep within your hearts, to your desire for a life worth living. Let him take you by the hand! Let him become more and more your friend and companion along life’s journey. Put your trust in him and he will never disappoint you! (Prayer vigil with Croatian youth, Bano Josip Jelačič Square, Zagreb, 4 June)

The Holy Spirit comes first

Sometimes it is thought that missionary efficacy depends primarily upon careful planning and its intelligent implementation by means of specific action. Certainly, the Lord asks for our cooperation, but his initiative has to come first, before any response from us: his Spirit is the true protagonist of the Church, to be invoked and welcomed. (Holy Mass on the occasion of the National Day of Croatian Catholic Families, Zagreb Hippodrome, 5 June)

The Christian family in modern society

In today’s society the presence of exemplary Christian families is more necessary and urgent than ever. Unfortunately, we are forced to acknowledge the spread of a secularization which leads to the exclusion of God from life and the increasing disintegration of the family, especially in Europe. Freedom without commitment to the truth is made into an absolute, and individual well-being through the consumption of material goods and transient experiences is cultivated as an ideal, obscuring the quality of interpersonal relations and deeper human values; love is reduced to sentimental emotion and to the gratification of instinctive impulses, without a commitment to build lasting bonds of reciprocal belonging and without openness to life. We are called to oppose such a mentality! (Idem)

Encouragement to priests

Dear priests – especially those of you in charge of parishes – I know the importance and the variety of your tasks in an age when the scarcity of priests is beginning to make itself felt strongly. I urge you not to lose heart, to remain vigilant in prayer and in your spiritual lives, in order to perform your ministry fruitfully: to teach, to sanctify and to guide all those who are entrusted to your care. Welcome with magnanimity those who knock at the door of your heart, offering to each one the gifts that divine goodness has entrusted to you. Persevere in communion with your Bishops and in mutual cooperation. Nourish your commitment at the life-giving waters of Scripture, the Sacraments, the constant praise of God, always open and docile to the actions of the Holy Spirit; you will thus be effective workers in the new evangelization, which you are called to realize together with the laity, in a coordinated way and without confusing what pertains to ordained ministry with what belongs to the universal priesthood of all the baptized. Keep close to your hearts the promotion of vocations to the priesthood; by your enthusiasm and your fidelity, strive to transmit a living desire to respond generously and without hesitation to Christ, who calls each one to be conformed more intimately to himself, Head and Shepherd. (Vespers with bishops, priests, religious and seminarians, tomb of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, Zagreb, 5 June)

Photo credit:
[1] REUTERS/Nikola Solic
[2] [3] REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
[4] AP Photo/Damir Sencar, Pool
[5] REUTERS/Marko Djurica

2010: an overview

On the last day of the first year of this blog’s existence, I think it’s nice to do what everyone and their dog is doing: offering an overview of the year gone by. I’ll present the ten most popular blog posts by page view, much like the monthly stats I’ve been sharing here (December’s statistics will follow tomorrow, once December is actually over).

It is clear that a blogger can’t do without a network. The top-scoring posts have reached so many viewers not only because of their topics, but to a large extent thanks to people who have linked to them. And to be honest, it is something of a feather in one’s cap if a noted blogger like Fr. Tim shares something one has written.

So, without any further ado, here’s my list:

1: Pornography or art? (17,630 views). A link from a Polish news-gathering website to this post about alleged pornography found on Belgian Cardinal Danneels’ computer (seized during the illegal police raid on his home) resulted in the largest peak in visitors this blog has yet seen. It also resulted in some discussion, here and on Twitter, about the photo itself. Some did not consider it disturbing in itself, but I maintained that the that, since it can apparently so easily be considered child pornography, there is something rotten going on regardless.

2: What to do about the sacrilege displayed in Obdam? (1,153 views). A news item that made headlines in Catholic blogs and news sites across the world, and which led to serious discussion on my blog as well. It was one of the first times that I decided to call for specific action in my blog, suggesting people contact Father Paul Vlaar and/or Bishop Jos Punt to relate their concerns. Many people, among them parishioners from Obdam chimed in in support of Fr. Vlaar, but many others tried to clearly express why a football Mass, no matter how much fun it is, has no place in the Catholic Church.

3: “The Belgian Church has been too passive” (1,022 views). Thanks to a link from Father Tim Finigan, my translation of an old interview with the new archbishop of Malines-Brussels, Msgr. André-Joseph Léonard, gave my blog the first considerable peak in visitor traffic. Archbishop Léonard has continued to be a considerable presence in the blog throughout the year, certainly not least due to the abuse crisis, which continues to hit Belgium particularly hard.

4: A gentle pope, but rock solid in the execution (975 views). Another translated interview, this with Msgr. Georg Gänswein about Pope Benedict XVI. Msgr. Gänswein’s popularity can be considered the main reason for this post’s popularity,but perhaps many readers also wish to know about the man in white. And who better to tell them that than the Holy Father’s personal secretary?

5: A diocesan statement about Fr. Paul Vlaar (859 views). Continuing the saga surrounding Obdam and Fr. Vlaar’s football Mass, the Diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam released an official statement in a very bad English translation. I re-translated the short piece, which was once more quite seriously covered across the world (the statement itself, not my translation).

6: Introductie op de Geest van de Liturgie – onofficiële vertaling (606 views). My first serious translation – of Msgr. Guido Marini’s address at the Clergy Conference in Rome – garnered much attention. A summarised version was published in the bulletin of the Dutch Latin Liturgy Society, and of all of my translations this has been the most popular. Not too shabby for a blog which is pretty much all in English.

7: In memoriam: Bishop Tadeusz Ploski (574 views). The tragedy of the plane crash that killed much of Poland’s government and military officials led me to write something about on of the clergymen killed. Many people, from Poland and elsewhere, found their way to that post via search engines. A blog post, therefore, that seemingly fulfilled a need for many.

8: Het probleem Medjugorje (486 views). My translation of an interview with Fr. Manfred Hauke, expert on apparitions and the Blessed Virgin, about the dubious events that led to the popular pilgrimage to Medjugorje, led not only to a considerable number of views, but also discussion. It is a topic that many people feel passionate about, and like the abuse crisis and the form of liturgy, it is often hard to have a balanced discussion about it. And, I admit, perhaps I was a bit in over my head as well when sharing this topic. A blogger, after all, has some responsibility to write about what he knows.

9: Under the Roman Sky (366 views). A very short post with the trailer to a film about the Holocaust in Rome and the role of Pope Pius XII in that. I still need to see it, by the way, and many others are interested as well, it seems. The false accusations that Venerable Pius XII was a Nazi collaborator are very persistent, and I still hope that this film can, in some small way, help to dispel those rumours.

10: The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin (320 views). A report of some personal experiences of mine, when I visited St. Agnes’ church in Amsterdam for a Mass in the Extraordinary Form, presided over by Archbishop François Bacqué, the nuncio to the Netherlands. An event that is still remarkable enough that it triggered some considerable attention. The website of the FSSP-run St. Agnes linked to my post, and they may be thanked as well for the traffic it received.

All in all, this first year has not at all been bad for my blog. Of course, there is always the pressure of time, especially now that I have a job as a teacher and a girlfriend to devote time to. For 2011, I hope to continue posting regularly about the things that happen in the Catholic Church worldwide and especially in the Low Countries.

For now, I wish all my readers


Stats for September 2010

September has been one of the slowest months for this blog since its beginning. This despite the pope’s visit to the UK, which was a popular search term. There were 3,341 visits. Only February had a lower number.

The list of popular posts is a mix of national and international. There’s the pope and his visit to the UK, but also news reports on Bishops Gijsen and De Jong. Again, happily, a translation creeps into the top 10 as well.

1: A gentle pope, but rock solid in the execution: 240
2: A mosque in New York: 103
3: Please, God, let it not be true: 79
4: Papal visit to England and Scotland, day one: 65
5: In Rome, the right-hand man: 63
6: Upon watching the papal Mass in Glasgow: 55
7: Pornography or art?: 49
8: Cardinals according to John Allen: 46
9: Bishop de Jong’s painful truths: 44
10: Pope Benedict’s message for the 2011 World Youth Days in Madrid (with Dutch translation): 34

Papal soundbytes, part 4 (19 September)

Below is a selection from the official addresses and homilies made by Pope Benedict XVI during his state visit to the United Kingdom last week. They are a strictly personal selection of passages which I think are either important to consider or which reflect the general topic of the various speeches. A full collection is available via the Vatican website. Below are my choices from the fourth and final day of the visit, 19 September.

An image of Blessed John Henry Newman looms over Pope Benedict XVI and Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham

Homily at the Mass for the beatification of Cardinal Newman, Birmingham

“Cardinal Newman’s motto, Cor ad cor loquitur, or “Heart speaks unto heart”, gives us an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, experienced as the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God. He reminds us that faithfulness to prayer gradually transforms us into the divine likeness. As he wrote in one of his many fine sermons, “a habit of prayer, the practice of turning to God and the unseen world in every season, in every place, in every emergency – prayer, I say, has what may be called a natural effect in spiritualizing and elevating the soul. A man is no longer what he was before; gradually … he has imbibed a new set of ideas, and become imbued with fresh principles.””

“[W]hat better goal could teachers of religion set themselves than Blessed John Henry’s famous appeal for an intelligent, well-instructed laity: “I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it.””

Address to the Bishops of England, Wales and Scotland

“In the course of my visit it has become clear to me how deep a thirst there is among the British people for the Good News of Jesus Christ. You have been chosen by God to offer them the living water of the Gospel, encouraging them to place their hopes, not in the vain enticements of this world, but in the firm assurances of the next. As you proclaim the coming of the Kingdom, with its promise of hope for the poor and the needy, the sick and the elderly, the unborn and the neglected, be sure to present in its fulness the life-giving message of the Gospel, including those elements which call into question the widespread assumptions of today’s culture. As you know, a Pontifical Council has recently been established for the New Evangelization of countries of long-standing Christian tradition, and I would encourage you to avail yourselves of its services in addressing the task before you.”

At Oscott College, the pope and the bishops of Scotland, England and Wales pose for a picture evoking a classic shot of Cardinal Newman and clergy of his day.

“Another matter which has received much attention in recent months, and which seriously undermines the moral credibility of Church leaders, is the shameful abuse of children and young people by priests and religious. I have spoken on many occasions of the deep wounds that such behaviour causes, in the victims first and foremost, but also in the relationships of trust that should exist between priests and people, between priests and their bishops, and between the Church authorities and the public. I know that you have taken serious steps to remedy this situation, to ensure that children are effectively protected from harm and to deal properly and transparently with allegations as they arise. You have publicly acknowledged your deep regret over what has happened, and the often inadequate ways it was addressed in the past. Your growing awareness of the extent of child abuse in society, its devastating effects, and the need to provide proper victim support should serve as an incentive to share the lessons you have learned with the wider community. Indeed, what better way could there be of making reparation for these sins than by reaching out, in a humble spirit of compassion, towards children who continue to suffer abuse elsewhere? Our duty of care towards the young demands nothing less.”

“I pray that among the graces of this visit will be a renewed dedication on the part of Christian leaders to the prophetic vocation they have received, and a new appreciation on the part of the people for the great gift of the ordained ministry.”

“[The implementation of Anglicanorum Coetibus] should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics. It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all.”

Pope Benedict and his personal secretary, Msgr. Gänswein, seen through the airplane window as they arrive back in Rome.

Stats for June 2010

A few days late, but here they are nonetheless (mostly for myself, I’ll admit)

June was a slightly better month than May, although the news and the topics I wrote about diminished a bit in the second half of the month. 3,652 page views were registered, bringing the total since the beginning of January to 22,582. As I thought, it did indeed cross the 20,000 somewhere around mid-June.

The ten most popular posts were the following:

1: A gentle pope, but rock solid in the execution (167)
2: St. Boniface Day 2010 (130)
3: Ouellet to the Congregation for Bishops (81)
4: The curious case of Bishop Walter Mixa (68)
5: Cardinal Newman to be beatified by the pope, officially announced (62)
6: Introductie op de Geest van de Liturgie – onofficiële vertaling (60)
7: Msgr. De Kesel to Bruges? Wow (54)
8: Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form in Amsterdam (52)
9: A difficult choice in the voting booth (48)
10: Father Cor Mennen had better look out… perhaps (44)

The high ranking of my post about the St. Boniface Day is mainly due to a link from my favourite Dutch blogger (for a giving value of ‘favourite’), who saw fit to use it as one more tool to attack my bishop, albeit not very convincingly (seriously, I’m suddenly an authority on  how many people attend an event?). Anyway, spike in stats – always nice.

Speaking of bishops, they and other curia members were the trend in the search terms. Msgr. Gänswein (yes, still), Bishop Mixa and the Venerable Cardinal Newman were all popular.

And lastly, can I say how very happy I am to see my translation of Msgr. Marini’s address on the liturgy still lingering in the top 10? Oh, I just did.

Stats for May 2010

Last month saw a bit of a drop in visitors, which I think is due to some days when I was unable to post much and the mere fact that there simply wasn’t as much news as in earlier months. The blog has a total of 3,437 visits, which brings the total since the start of the year to 18,807. It looks like we may break the 20,000 before the mid-point of the year.

The ten most popular posts were the following:

1: A gentle pope, but rock solid in the execution: 221
2: “Someone is more likely to get pregnant from kissing than a paedophile because of celibacy”: 87
3: Welcome news from the Vatican Information Service: 57
4: Introductie op de geest van de liturgie: 56
5: Cardinal Newman to be beatified by the pope, officially announced: 54
6: Muslim worship in a Catholic church: 49
7: Ascension Day: 46
8: Some facts about the Turin shroud: 43
9: “I did not want this disurbance” – Fr. Luc Buyens’ homily: 41
10: “Religious education should be about Jesus”: 39

The Msgr. Gänswein fan club was out in force. The interview with him and the profile I did were linked from one or two fora and fan sites dedicated to the pope’s personal assistant. In search terms we see that as well: No less than 178 searches on Msgr. Gänswein led people to this blog. Another oddly popular search term was ‘yellow warbler’, used 26 times. And then finally, the upcoming papal visit to the UK in September seems to gain momentum: Cardinal Newman, who will be beatified then, was searched for 33 times.

Lastly, I’m still quite pleased to see that the translation of Msgr. Marini’s address about the liturgy remains popular.

Stats for April 2010

April was a good month for visits to my blog. The total was 4,288, making April the best month yet. The total number of visits crossed the 15,000 and now stands at 15,609.

A few peaks in the past month, with the largest one after the plane crash near Smolensk that killed the Polish president and 95 others. My post about Bishop Ploski drew 500 visits. The resignation of Bishop Vangheluwe of Bruges was also a popular topic, of course. My translation of Msgr. Marini’s address about the liturgy remains popular too, coming in at a shared 8th place last month – a welcome surprise once again. Less surprising was the popularity of the two posts about Msgr. Georg Gänswein: for the first time a fan page linked to me… He’s a popular priest, evidently.

1: In memoriam: Bishop Tadeusz Ploski (500 views)
2: Under the Roman Sky (128)
3: Translation of statements about the resignation of the bishop of Bruges (66)
4 Rumours about resignation Belgian bishop – to be updated (63)
5: The Netherlands says no to abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage (55)
6: ”Hij kan beter met een molensteen om zijn nek in zee gegooid worden…” & In Rome: The right-hand man (46)
7: A gentle pope, but rock solid in the execution (42)
8: Introductie op de Geest van de Liturgie – onofficiële vertaling, ”Someone is more likely to get pregnant from kissing than a pedophile because of celibacy” & Bertone’s grain of truth (40)
9: ”It’s exciting!” (34)
10: The nature of church buildings (33)

The search terms were not very surprising last month. In fact, there is none that stands out as unusual. Lots of terms about Bishop Ploski, Bruges, Under the Roman Sky, and also some about STS-131.

A gentle pope, but rock solid in the execution

Bild publishes an interview with Msgr. Georg Gänswein today. The topic: Pope Benedict XVI. Msgr Gänswein reflects on the past, the media, the abuse crisis and the Holy Father’s personality. 


Five years ago, a German Catholic was elected head of the Catholic Church. Next week Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate his official anniversary. 

Bild speaks to the man who knows the pope best: his private secretary, Monsignor Georg Gänswein. 

Possibly my favourite photo of the pope with Msgr. Gänswein at his side.


Bild: Msgr. Gänswein, you accompanied the pope every day for the past five years. What was the best moment to be at his side? 

Msgr. Gänswein: There has been a string of beautiful moments. I especially remember the early days: the election in the Sistine Chapel, the procession into the Apostolic Palace, the first audiences and travels – they are all unforgettable. And every day there are new beautiful moments. 

Bild: Have there also been difficult moments for you? 

Msgr. Gänswein: For me personally the start was a great challenge: the mass of letters, requests for audiences, invitations were almost too much for me. The whole world knocks at the door, and I asked myself: How do I deal with that? What do I send on, what not? I felt as if I were in the shower and could not find the lever to stop the water. My inner tranquility was at risk, but I had to maintain it to the outside. 

Bild: Has the pope been able to successfully implement what he wanted? 

Msgr. Gänswein: A pope does not begin with a program of government which he then works to implement. Above all he is a witness of faith, he places himself in the line of successors of St. Peter, and he has to fulfill the task he is given. He has clearly formulated this task in the homily in St. Peter’s Square when he took office: He is concerned with God, with the faith in Jesus Christ, with the Church, with people. Faith, hope and love are the pillars of his preaching. He who believes is not alone.  He who has hope, lives differently. God is love. This trinity runs like a thread through  the pope’s work in the past five years. In that the pope is not affected by either  loud objections from the media or intimidation. 

Bild: Has there been a moment which you consider a defeat? 

Msgr. Gänswein: I wouldn’t speak call it defeat, but rather disappointment. I have experienced times when decisions or statements from the Holy Father were wrongly presented or even deliberately twisted. These have disappointed, even hurt me. I think of the case of Bishop Williamson: just when the pope had lifted the excommunication of the four bishops consecrated by Bishop Lefebrve, and then one of them denied the Holocaust. The one had nothing to do with the other, but it was a painful coincidence. The good intentions of the Holy Father were not just misheard, but totally  misunderstood and used against him. 

Bild: Is the Holy Father affected by the criticism from Germany, that he is silent on the current abuse crisis? 

Msgr. Gänswein: Criticism that helps the matter is always justified. I doubt that criticism really has that intention in this case. Let it be noted: any form of sexual abuse is abhorrent and should be condemned. No one has done that as clearly as the Holy Father and the Catholic Church. And not just since yesterday, and not just with words. Benedict XVI has met with victims of abuse in America and Australia. The recent letter from the pope to the Catholics of Ireland takes as clear a position against the facts as never before. It is neither useful nor helpful if the pope makes personal excuses for every single case. The fact that individual bishops and bishops’ conference also bear responsibility is too readily overlooked. There are clear responsibilities to be taken into account and to be respected. Those who wish for papal words may read the very detailed pastoral letter to the Irish. 

 Bild: In Germany the number of Catholics has been dropping since the 1970s. Does that affect the Holy Father, even though as shepherd of the World Church he must look out for all countries in the world? 

Msgr. Gänswein: Of course he is affected by what happens in Germany, and especially in Bavaria. Both the good and the bad. Additionally, he is also concerned about the crisis in faith. But on the other hand, one must not overlook the good which also in Germany grows and flourishes in the foundation of faith. As shepherd of the World Church he meets with bishops from all over the world every day, who report about their dioceses, and there he hears – thanks be to God – many good things. The bishops from Africa especially, speak of faith flourishing and many vocations to the priesthood and religious life there. To hear that is good for the soul. 

Bild: The Holy Father once said that he experienced his election as a ‘guillotine’. How is he doing now in his office? 

Msgr. Gänswein: The guillotine is a very harsh image. Cardinal Ratzinger, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had a primarily defensive role; before anything else, he had to defend, deflect, take the coal out of the fire. As pope he has a lot more opportunities to also act offensively. The Holy Father is an excellent teacher, he has to gift of the word,  he loves writing. He speaks clearly and intelligently. With his words he fills the heart. 

Bild: If you had to name three characteristics that you appreciate in the pope, which would they be? 

Msgr. Gänswein: Unyielding faith, humble strength, disarming mildness. His style is gentle, but he is rock solid in the execution. 

Bild: You work very closely together. Is there anything that annoys you about the Holy Father? 

Msgr. Gänswein: A close working relationship does not lead to annoyance. On the contrary, it removes it. Of course there are moments when the Holy Father needs to take a break because of great external pressure. I try to create space so he can catch his breath, to hold the pressure at bay, so that he can collect his strength. I must admit that I have never seen him in a bad mood, not as a cardinal and not as pope. He is always courteous and gentle towards people.