Suggestions of a major rift between the Right-leaning Benedict, and Left-leaning Francis, have plagued the pair since the latter replaced the former as head of the Vatican seven years ago. Critics claim Benedict’s presence within the church continues to hamper Francis, and his bid to rid the Catholic church of its seemingly outdated traditions. Although both have made public comments regarding the other, the spat between the two has left many observers fearing for the fate of the church – especially if Francis is unable to fulfil his mandate of dragging Catholicism into the 21st century.
But one decision Benedict made left Vatican insiders, and worshippers alike, furious after he went behind the church’s back to publish a book on celibacy, at a crucial time when Francis was deciding to relax the laws.
Co-authored alongside Cardinal Robert Sarah, From the Depths of Our Hearts was highly critical of any move away from allowing married men into the priesthood.
Within the text, Benedict said: “Given that the conjugal state affects all men, and that the service of the Lord requires also a complete giving of man, it does not seem possible to realise both vocations simultaneously.”
The former pontiff had originally vowed to let his successor carry out his own designs for the church, and YouTube channel Rome Reports claims the move therefore disappointed those close to the Vatican.
It reported: “Some are surprised that Benedict has published a book on this issue.
“According to Pope Emeritus’ secretary, he is in no condition to give speeches on complex topics despite being coherent.”
The channel claimed that Cantagalli, the book’s publisher, said the two co-authors were only “in search of the truth in love for the unity of the church” and in no way criticised Pope Francis.
A row then soon escalated as Benedict’s personal secretary claimed the ex-chief wanted his name removed from the text, such was the condemnation received after its publication.
Other critics alleged that Cardinal Sarah had falsely used Benedict’s name, but the Guinean prelate argued in January: “Benedict XVI has personally confirmed to me that he welcomes this book and is happy with its publication.
“The entire text therefore remains unchanged, except for the introduction and conclusion, as explained by the publisher Cantagalli.
“Now I ask that this sterile controversy ends.”
However, following this move Benedict’s personal secretary claimed he wanted to have his name removed from the text, such was the condemnation received after its publication.
But the damage was done, and Benedict’s relationship with Francis reportedly hampered, leading critics such as author Lynda Telford to attack the retired pontiff.
The writer of Women of the Vatican – Female Power in a Male World, told Express.co.uk that since then Benedict has been “doing his absolute best to sabotage all the reforms that Francis is trying to bring in”.
She added: “Benedict has no right to interfere.
“Putting him under the same roof as Francis, so he’s never free of him, is appalling.”
Francis would eventually decide against the relaxing of celibacy laws within the church, leading many Catholic liberals to criticise the pope for his decision.