February 25, 2013
JONATHAN LUXMOORE
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

OXFORD, ENGLAND – Pope Benedict was "exhausted and disheartened" well before his Feb. 11 resignation announcement, according to his German biographer, Peter Seewald.

In an article, "Farewell to my pope," in the Feb. 18 issue of Germany's Focus weekly, Seewald said he had held several Vatican meetings with the 85-year-old pontiff over the last six months while preparing a new biography.

He said he had "never seen Benedict XVI so drained of energy" and "deeply disheartened" as when he met him last summer.

Asked what could still be expected of his pontificate, according to Seewald, the pope answered: "From me - not much now. I'm an old man and I've lost my strength. I think I've done enough."

The 58-year-old Seewald, a fellow-Bavarian and former editor of Germany's Der Spiegel weekly, has published several interview-based books on Pope Benedict, including a biography in 2006 and the 2010 best-seller, Light of the World.

LAST BOOK

He said the pope told him the third volume of his Jesus of Nazareth, published in November, would be his last book.

However, he denied the 2012 "VatiLeaks" scandal had been a reason for the pontiff's resignation and said Pope Benedict had merely voiced incomprehension at the decision of his former butler, Paolo Gabriele, to leak information.

"It's true the butler's betrayal was a painful experience," Seewald told the Munich-based Focus.

"But it certainly didn't influence his decision in any important way. In our 90-minute talk at Castel Gandolfo last August, the pope said he felt neither despair nor despondency."

The 66-member bishops' conference in the pope's native Germany was to discuss Pope Benedict's resignation at a Feb. 18-21 plenary in Trier.

ROLE OF WOMEN

In a Feb. 18 interview with Germany's Catholic news agency, KNA, the conference president, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, said the plenary would also discuss the future role of women in the Church and sexual abuse by priests, as well as formulating a stance on use of the morning-after pill by rape victims.

"Benedict XVI's successor can add new elements, unencumbered by such controversies as VatiLeaks and the crisis over the Society of St. Pius X," Zollitsch said.

STRENGTHEN LOCAL CHURCHES

"For our part, we want look at what's coming up and discuss the future course of events. We think the principle of subsidiarity should be strengthened, allowing local churches to bring themselves into the global Church while also retaining a certain variety," Zollitsch said.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz said he believed the pope had been "rather lonely" and had not always had "good people around him."

Lehmann said he thought the pope's decision to resign had been influenced by "disappointment at certain Vatican operations."