The following comes from a July 11 story on Vatican Insider (La Stampa).

“You cannot begin to imagine how humble and wise this man is … there is no way I would turn down advice from someone like him, it would be foolish of me to do so!” Pope Francis said referring to his predecessor, Benedict XVI. The comment was made during a telephone conversation with Jorge Milia, journalist, writer and a former pupil of Bergoglio’s. Milia quote Francis’ words in an  article published on Italian journalist Alver Metalli’s blog, Terre d’America.

The writer starts by saying that the Pope complained about receiving a twelve page letter from him. “But you can’t say I didn’t make you laugh…” Milia replied. “He laughed. For reasons not even I can understand, he still puts up with my writing, just as he did all those years ago when he was still my teacher. I told him I had started reading the Lumen Fidei encyclical and he would not take any credit for it. He said Benedict XVI had done most of the work, that he was a sublime thinker and that most people did not really know or understand him.

The writer quoted the Pope saying: “Today I spent the day with el viejo [the old man, Ed.]. We talked a lot; it is always a pleasure to exchange ideas with him.” Naturally, Francis used the Spanish term for “old man” in an affectionate way.

“Whenever he talks about Ratzinger, he does so with respect and tenderness,” Milia said. “He sounds like someone who has bumped into an old friend, an old classmate; one of those people who pop up now and again, who used to attend a course or two after ours and who we admired.”

In his telephone conversation with Milia, Francis said: “You cannot begin to imagine how humble and wise this man is.” To which Milia replied: “Then keep him close…” “There is no way I would turn down advice from someone like him, it would be foolish of me to do so!” Francis said.

Francis also confided in Milia about the fact that it is hard for the Pope to have contact with people: “It was not easy, Jorge. The Pope has many “masters” who have served for a long time here.”

“He went on to say that every change he has introduced has involved a great deal of work  (and has earned him enemies no doubt). The thing he found most difficult was objecting to them managing his agenda. This is why he didn’t want to live in the Apostolic Palace, because many others ended up becoming “prisoners” of their secretaries, Milia wrote.

“I will decide who I see, not my secretaries … Sometimes I can’t see the people I would like to because I have to wait and see who asks to meet with me,” Francis told his former pupil.

“This comment really struck me. I’m not the Pope and I don’t have his power but I can feel the excitement at the prospect of seeing a dear friend and I don’t know if I would give precedence to someone else,” Milia said.

But he deprives himself from seeing he wants to see, to be with those who ask to see him. He told me that Popes have been isolated for centuries and that this is not good. A shepherd’s place is with his sheep…”

To read the original story, click here.