Archbishop Gänswein, former papal secretary, named nuncio to Baltic states

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Despite tensions with Pope Francis which have sometimes boiled over into public view, Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Pope Benedict XVI's longtime secretary, will become the pope's representative to the Baltic states.

Almost a year after Pope Francis directed the archbishop to return to his home diocese of Freiburg in southwest Germany without an assignment in July 2023, the Vatican announced June 24 that Archbishop Gänswein will become the apostolic nuncio to Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

The archbishop had been Pope Benedict's personal secretary since 2003, when the future pope was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and prefect of the then-Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He continued to serve as his secretary after he was elected pope in 2005.

Pope Benedict appointed him prefect of the papal household in 2012 and ordained him a bishop a little more than a month before announcing his resignation in February 2013. Archbishop Gänswein continued in that role as prefect under Pope Francis until 2020 when the pope told him to assist the retired Pope Benedict full time, although he retained his title as prefect.

In a book-length interview, "El Sucesor" ("The Successor"), published in Spanish in April, Pope Francis shared that he asked Archbishop Gänswein to take a voluntary leave after a book on celibacy and the priesthood that featured Pope Benedict's face on the cover alongside its author, Cardinal Robert Sarah, then-prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, was published in 2020.

The book was widely seen as a reproach of the discussion on altering the discipline of celibacy for Latin-rite Catholic priests that emerged from the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, as well as a rare incident of the retired pope publicly exerting pressure on his successor. Archbishop Gänswein later said Pope Benedict willingly contributed to the book but did not approve being credited as a co-author, chalking up the incident to a "misunderstanding."

Pope Francis also criticized the "lack of nobility and humanity" the archbishop displayed by publishing a book on his experiences working alongside Pope Benedict so soon after the German pope's funeral in January 2023.

In that book, Archbishop Gänswein wrote that a "climate of trust" had never been created between him and Pope Francis.

Born July 30, 1956, in Waldshut, Germany, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1984 for the Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau.

After earning a degree in canon law from the Catholic theologian institute at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, he worked in the Freiburg archdiocesan tribunal before joining the staff of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments at the Vatican in 1995. He transferred to the doctrinal congregation a year later.