Former pope Benedict thanks God for his 'freedom' in retirement

Former pope Joseph Ratzinger (above, in 2015) says “of course it wasn’t easy” to take the decision to become the first pope to retire in seven centuries.
Former pope Joseph Ratzinger (above, in 2015) says “of course it wasn’t easy” to take the decision to become the first pope to retire in seven centuries.PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN (AFP) - Retired pope Benedict XVI says he has no regrets about his 2013 decision to retire and thanks God for enabling him to recover his "freedom" from the responsibilities associated with leading the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.

"I thank God that this responsibility, which I could no longer bear, no longer weighs upon me and that I can in all humility move forward with Him, that I can live with friends and friends can visit me more," Benedict, 89, says in an extract from Final Conversations, a series of interviews with German journalist Peter Seewald.

In the work to appear on Friday the former pontiff says that "of course it wasn't easy" to take the decision to become the first pope to retire in seven centuries.

But the erstwhile Joseph Ratzinger insisted that "it was the right moment" to step down.

He explained that the decision stemmed from a March 2012 visit to Mexico and Cuba during which he realised he no longer had the strength to oversee World Youth Day celebrations in Rio the following year.

After he stepped down it was successor Pope Francis who led celebrations for three million faithful on Copacabana Beach.

Seewald told German news weekly Die Zeit, in an article which appeared on Thursday, that Ratzinger "fell in love... in a very serious way" as a student.

But his collection of interviews do not contain any revelations on the scandal of paedophile priests, although Ratzinger indicates that he would "deal with things straight away" if he did get wind of an issue that required action.

Benedict admitted he had initial reservations on the choice of Pope Francis, Argentine Jorge Bergoglio, to succeed him.

"I was uncertain to begin with. But then I saw how he speaks with God, with men - and I was very happy."

He also told Seewald that he felt he himself had "perhaps not been enough among men" during his stewardship and found Francis' direct style of engagement "very good."

Even so, "I do, of course, ask myself how long he will keep it up... because that requires a lot of energy."