Kai Diekmann, Editor-in-chief of Bild Zeitung, talks about his visit to Benedict XVI: “Bright-eyed, smiley, no signs of weariness”

Kai Diekmann, Editor-in-chief of Bild Zeitung, talks about his visit to Benedict XVI: “Bright-eyed, smiley, no signs of weariness”

A small reception hall, a wooden staircase  that leads up to the first floor. The sitting room is welcoming and bright, there is a white leather sofa and a simple seat. A book case that reaches the ceiling, a flat-screen TV with a DVD player and some religious icons on the walls. A coffee table and a piano with a black-and-white photo of his brother Georg.

The story Kai Diekmann, Editor-in-chief of Bild Zeitung, wishes to share with his readers is very familiar; “A meeting with our Pope Benedict XVI, two years after his resignation”. That adjective “our” is impossible not to notice. It resonates a sense of pride almost, that dates back to that title published ten years ago: it was 20 April 2005, the day after Cardinal Ratzinger was elected leader of the Catholic Church, and Germany’s biggest newspaper appeared on newsstands with a picture of Benedict XVI appearing on the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica on the front page, along with the title “Wir sind Papst” (We are Pope). The first German Pope had been elected after more than 500 years.

On 15 October he met 88-year-old Benedict XVI, two years after his resignation: “He is there on the doorstep, our Pope. Bright-eyed, smiley, leaning on a Zimmer frame. He is wearing a white cassock and a simple pair of brown sandals on his feet.”

“It’s great to be here!” Ratzinger is in good spirits, wide-awake, no signs of weariness. He sits on the sofa: the weariness that was visible when he announced his resignation before a gathering of cardinals (the photographs taken by Daniel Biskup which illustrated the article clearly showed this) seems miles away.

Diekmann came bearing a small gift: German artist Albrecht Klink had inscribed the legendary title “We are Pope” on a birchwood structure. Benedict XVI took it in his hands, ran his hands over it several times and smiled, confiding that that through that piece of art he could feel all the closeness and affection of his fellow countrymen.

Last spring, on the 10th anniversary of  his election, the Berlin-based daily –  which has editorial offices all over Germany and sales of over 2 million copies in Germany alone – published a long interview with Joseph Ratzinger’s private secretary, Mgr. Georg Gänswein, who spoke about the  Pope Emeritus’ “very quiet” lifestyle and his frequent phone calls with his 91-year-old brother Georg.

“Every evening he pays a visit to the Lourdes Grotto (with the statue from France) in the Vatican Gardens, using a Zimmer frame to get around,” said Bishop Gänswein. “He also went there after our conversation” (on board a small golf car-like vehicle)

“In these moments I feel that I am in even closer communion with God,” Benedict XVI said, greeting Diekmann  with “a warm two-handed handshake”. Just as he always did when he was Pope, the Editor-in-chief said looking visibly moved.

Vatican Insider