Pope Francis has directed the late Pope Benedict’s confidential secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein to return to his native Germany by the end of the month with no new post.
The Vatican announced this in a statement on Thursday, putting an end to speculation about what role Gaenswein, who was a dominant player in the Vatican for more than a decade before Francis suspended him due to a personal feud, will play in the Church.
Former Pope Benedict passed away on December 31, nearly a decade after his resignation in 2013. He was the first pontiff in 600 years to abdicate.
Gaenswein, a longtime assistant of the late Pope Benedict, is 66 years old. It is highly unusual for someone of that age and rank not to have a job, lending the pope’s decision a sense of exile.
Francis “had decided” that the 66-year-old Gaenswein return to his diocese of Freiburg “for the time being,” according to a two-line statement.
In the past, nearly all papal secretaries were appointed to head dioceses, made cardinals, or granted other prominent positions.
Gaenswein is nine years younger than the typical retirement age of 75 for bishops, which is 75.