Benedict XVI addressed conspiracy theories about his resignation as pope, Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq, and Joe Biden in an interview with an Italian newspaper published on Monday. The pope emeritus told Corriere della Sera that he stood by his decision despite criticism from his friends in an interview released on March 1, a day after the eighth anniversary of the end of his pontificate. “It was a difficult decision. But I made it in full consciousness, and I think I did the right thing,” the 93-year-old former pope told the journalist Massimo Franco during a private visit. “Some of my friends who are a bit ‘fanatical’ are still angry, they didn’t want to accept my choice. I think of the conspiracy theories that followed it: some said it was because of the Vatileaks scandal, some said it was because of a conspiracy of the gay lobby, some said it was because of the case of the conservative Lefebvrian theologian Richard Williamson.” “They do not want to believe in a choice made consciously.
But my conscience is fine.” He also underlined that there is only one pope — Francis — rather than two. Benedict XVI announced his resignation on Feb. 11, 2013. His resignation went into effect on Feb. 28, 2013, when he became the first pope in almost 600 years to step down. His almost eight-year-long pontificate was overshadowed by the publication of confidential papal documents, known as the Vatileaks scandal, leaked by his butler. The Italian media speculated about the existence of a “gay lobby” at the Vatican before Benedict XVI’s resignation and Pope Francis commented that “so much is written about the gay lobby” months after his election in 2013. In 2009, Benedict lifted the excommunication of four SSPX bishops, including Williamson.
Shortly afterward, Swedish television broadcast an interview with Williamson that led to the English bishop’s conviction for Holocaust denial by a German court. The German pope wrote a letter to the world’s bishops in which he acknowledged that the controversy could have been avoided if Vatican officials had researched Williamson’s statements on the internet. In the interview, Benedict also said that he was praying for the success of Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq this week. He said: “Unfortunately it falls at a very difficult time that also makes it a dangerous trip: for security reasons and for COVID. And then there is the unstable Iraqi situation. I will accompany Francis with my prayers.” According to the Italian newspaper, Benedict also commented on U.S. President Joe Biden, saying “It is true, he is Catholic and observant. And personally he is against abortion,” but “as president, he tends to present himself in continuity with the line of the Democratic Party … And on gender policy, we still don’t really understand what his position is.