Former Pope Benedict XVI is "at peace," both with himself and the Lord after stepping down from his high-ranking post a year ago, his closest adviser said in a recent and rare interview.
"Pope Benedict is at peace with himself and I think he is even at peace with the Lord," Archbishop Georg Ganswein, who currently works for both the pope emeritus and the current Pope Francis, told Reuters in a rare interview.
"I am certain, indeed convinced, that history will offer a judgment that will be different than what one often read in the last years of his pontificate," Ganswein added. The archbishop currently works as Benedict's secretary as well as the head of Pope Francis' household, and therefore has regular contact with both Catholic leaders. The archbishop has been Benedict's close adviser since before his election to pope in 2005 and still takes daily walks with the former leader each afternoon.
Benedict voluntarily stepped down from his papal office in February 2013, saying he no longer had the "strength of mind and body" to continue with his leadership role in the church. His papal career was often plagued by public criticism, especially from the media, regarding the ongoing controversy over sexual abuse in the Catholic Church as well as the "Vatileaks" scandal in which confidential Vatican documents were leaked by Benedict's butler, causing many to label the secretive Vatican community as corrupt and unstable.
Although Benedict was the first pope to step down voluntarily in 600 years, his decision also prompted the papal conclave to elect its first non-European pope in 1,300 years, picking Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina, who took on the name Pope Francis. Since his election, Francis has been credited with putting a new face on the Catholic Church through his advocacy of humility and generosity to the poor.
Ganswein said in another recent interview with Vatican Television that Pope Francis' meteoric rise to fame could not have been accomplished without Benedict's resignation. "We are all seeing the impact that Pope Francis is having on the world, not just the faithful in the church but in the world – it's an enormous impact – and this impact was also facilitated by Pope Benedict in resigning," Ganswein said. "He opened a possibility that until then wasn't there, and we can see that Pope Francis has taken this situation in hand and we're delighted."
As Reuters reports, the pope emeritus reportedly spends his day studying, reading, practicing the piano and praying for Pope Francis. The former Catholic leader previously said that he would spend the rest of his days following his resignation "hidden from the world." He resides in a former convent in the Vatican gardens, and reportedly corresponds with Pope Francis regularly in the form of written notes or holiday visits.