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The Man Who Serves Two Popes

Monsignor Georg Ganswein has a very unusual job in the history of the Vatican—he is serving two popes: the current Pope, Francis, and the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI.

Father Giorgio, as he had always been fondly called in the papal apartment until he became the titular Archbishop of Urbisaglia, works in the Apostolic Palace in the morning. He serves as the Prefect of the Papal Household, overseeing all papal audiences, meetings, and official visits. In the afternoon, he goes to the monastery of Mater Ecclesiae inside the Vatican gardens, where he works as Pope Benedict’s personal secretary.

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Humble Beginnings

Seeing him at ease with sovereigns and heads of state, it’s hard to belive that Monsignor Ganswein came from humble origins. His father was a blacksmith, his mother a housewife, and he is the eldest of five siblings. “My father ran my family’s seventh-generation blacksmith craft business to which a shop selling agricultural machinery was added on, but it never earned much,” the priest says. He said that when he was six years old, his family had a farm and that his father was active in municipal politics resulting to him almost never home in the evening. He had a carefree childhood and was even rebellious during his adolescence!

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Young Rebel

Would you believe that as a teen, the Monsignor actually had arguments with his father about his hair? “I listened to Cat Stevens, Pink Floyd, and other celebrities of our time, the Beatles among them. At the same time, I had long and curly hair. My father wasn’t pleased; we had some arguments about appointments at the hair salon and the length of my hair.” He loves sports—soccer, skiing, and tennis. As a young man, he worked as a postman on a bike.

And because he’s very good-looking and quite charming, he had no trouble with girls despite not having a steady girlfriend. He had, however, what he calls “adorable youthful friendships.”  Nowadays, he is a favorite of the ladies of the Vatican. Donatella Versace, the fashion designer, has even dedicated her 2007 fall collection to him!

Double Duty

When asked about how he feels in this unprecedented role, the monsignor answers frankly, “They say I have two masters. I render my service in full harmony with the two Popes, trying to be a bridge between them. It works very well for now and I hope that both Popes are happy.”

——–

The full version of this article appears in the July 2018 issue of My Pope Philippines magazine. Text by Ignazio Ingrao.
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