Papal biographer claims Benedict XVI resigned due to years of ‘insomnia’

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) –– Pope Benedict’s biographer Peter Seewald, has stated that the late Pontiff wrote to him last year, citing longstanding insomnia as the reason behind his 2013 resignation. However, the news adds further confusion to the details regarding Benedict’s resignation.

Seewald – who wrote the widely read biography on Pope Benedict Benedict XVI: A Life – made the comments to German language magazine Focus. In a subsequent statement to KNA, Seewald confirmed what Focus had reported, arguing that it was insomnia which was the “central reason” behind Benedict’s shock resignation in 2013.

Seewald stated that Benedict reportedly wrote to him in October 28, 2022, providing details of his medical condition while the reigning Pontiff. Citing this letter, Seewald stated that Benedict wrote of “insomnia that has accompanied me continuously since World Youth Day in Cologne.”

The Cologne World Youth Day took place in August 2005, four months after Benedict was elected Pope in mid-April. Benedict retired on February 28, 2013.

The papal biographer added that Benedict reportedly wrote about “strong remedies” which were prescribed to him by his own doctor, which enabled the German Pope to continue his daily duties. Benedict apparently wrote that though the drugs worked for a time, they eventually “reached their limits” and were “less and less able to ensure” his ability.

“Benedict XVI did not want to make a fuss during his lifetime about the closer circumstances of his resignation, which was justified by his exhaustion,” stated Seewald. 

According to Seewald, Benedict wrote about an accident he had in 2012, which became pivotal in his decisions to consider resigning from office. The accident took place during Benedict’s March 2012 trip to Mexico and Cuba. 

Seewald recounts that Benedict reportedly wrote how he had taken up his handkerchief, only to find it “totally soaked with blood.” “I must have bumped into something in the bathroom and fallen,” Benedict reportedly wrote, thus suggesting that he had no memory of having had an accident. 

The Pope reportedly added that “thankfully” he received treatment from a medic in such a manner that there was no wound visible.

Some details of this event are also recounted in the book recently released by Benedict XVI’s longtime secretary, Archbishop Georg Gänswein. The archbishop records the event, but presents the event differently to how Seewald states that Benedict did.

Gänswein writes that Benedict “tripped over a mat while in the bathroom to shave and fell on his back, hitting his head on the shower stall riser.” 

READ: Abp. Gänswein provides little-known details of Benedict XVI’s resignation that shocked the world

But he added that the Pope “had no loss of consciousness or particular problems, but a couple of stitches were needed to suture the wound.” This presents quite a different account to that in the letter which Benedict reportedly sent to Seewald, which apparently states that the Pope was unsure how his handkerchief could be so bloody.

Gänswein added that the bleeding actually continued so much that the Papal Master of Ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, did not remove Benedict’s zucchetto at the required times during the liturgy.

However, further discrepancy is also found with regard to this detail of Ganswein’s, as video footage of the Mass clearly shows the second Papal MC removing Benedict’s zucchetto at exactly the normal time – the start of the Preface.

Additional footage of the Pope’s arrival to the Mass shows Gänswein place a traditional Mexican sombrero on Benedict’s head.

Where both Gänswein and Seewald’s account of Benedict’s letter do agree, however, is that the accident highlighted to Benedict the frailty of his personal health. 

Gänswein wrote the event “suddenly” made the Pope realize “how much his strength was steadily diminishing.”

Seewald stated Benedict’s letter recounted how after the accident, his doctor strongly recommended the Pope reduce his intake of sleeping pills, and that he only participate in morning events on foreign trips.

Based on his experience on the trip, Benedict decided to resign before the 2013 World Youth Day, Seewald stated. This was because his medically restricted lifestyle “could only apply for a short time.”

READ: Benedict XVI’s republished 2019 sex abuse essay at center of media frenzy over posthumous book

One aspect which particularly stood out in Seewald’s statement regarding the alleged letter is that it would serve to answer any questions about Benedict’s resignation. 

“Rumors about blackmail and pressure of whatever kind that had been exerted on him do not fall silent,” Focus Magazine wrote. As a result, Seewald decided to publicize the letter, which he called “the decisive detail entrusted to me from the German pope’s medical history.”

“I hope that this will finally put the conspiracy theories and erroneous speculations to rest,” Seewald told KNA.

Regrettably, Seewald’s intervention and statement regarding the alleged letter he received from the late Pontiff have not done away with questions.

Media reports only have Seewald’s statement to rely on for the authenticity of the letter which was supposedly penned by Benedict, just over two months before he died.

Given the different accounts presented of Benedict’s accident between the letter which Seewald cites and in Gänswein’s book, it remains to be seen which is a closer representation of the truth. Gänswein’s book certainly appears to contain details of the Papal Mass which are easily disprovable upon an examination of the footage. 

The details thus presented by Seewald seem only to lend further confusion to an already momentous event in history.

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