Retired Pope Benedict XVI has acknowledged that governing the church wasn’t his strong suit but says he doesn’t see his papacy as a failure and that he succeeded at least in breaking up the Vatican’s so-called "gay lobby."
In a new, book-length interview, excerpts of which were published in Corriere della Sera, Benedict also said he was shocked, and initially uncertain, about the election of Pope Francis. But he said he immediately realised the significance of electing a Latin American pope, and said he is very happy with Francis’ papacy.
"The Last Conversations" was prepared with German journalist Peter Seewald, who has conducted several such interviews with Benedict from the time he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Benedict, 89, in 2013 became the first pope in 600 years to retire.
"A weak point of mine was maybe little resolve in governing and making decisions," admits the ex-pontiff in the book. "In reality I am more a professor, one who reflects and mediates on spiritual questions," Benedict states. "Practical governance is not my strong point and this is certainly a weakness."
"But I do not see myself as a failure," he continues. "For eight years I carried out my work."
Benedict widely praises his successor Pope Francis, calling him "the man of practical reform."
"He was an archbishop for a long time, he knows the trade," the retired pope says of Francis. "He was a superior of Jesuits and has the ability to put his hands to action in an organised way. I knew that this was not my strong point."
Benedict says he was surprised by the March 2013 election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who took the name Francis.
"No one expected him," says the retired pope. "I knew him, naturally, but I did not think of him. In this sense it was a big surprise. I did not think that he was in the select group of candidates.
"When I heard his name, initially I was insecure," he states.
"But when I saw him speak on one hand with God, and on the other with people, I was truly content and happy," he said, in reference to when Francis was introduced to crowds in St. Peter’s Square and bowed his head towards them and asked that they pray to God to bless him in his ministry