Cardinal denies ex-pope Benedict was duped about priest celibacy book

Vatican City – A top cardinal denied Tuesday that a controversial book he co-authored with Benedict XVI is being published without the consent of the retired pope.

In the book, Benedict argues against a relaxation of the celibacy rule for priests, wading into an issue on which his successor Pope Francis is due to make a decision within a few weeks.

Several commentators have seen this as an unwelcome interference, and a serious breach of Benedict’s promise to remain “hidden to the world” following his retirement in 2013.

But to insinuate that the former pope “had not been informed” about the book coming out “is extremely despicable,” Cardinal Robert Sarah said in a statement.

“I sincerely forgive all those who are slandering me or who want to put me against Pope Francis,” he added, renewing his affection for Benedict and “absolute filial obedience to Pope Francis.”