In the weeks since the prior pope passed, revelations have exposed tensions between him and his more liberal successor, however Francis denied allegations that he and Benedict were hostile towards one another.
"I think Benedict’s death was instrumentalized," Francis said while onboard the papal plane on his way back to Italy from South Sudan. "People wanted to score points for their own side."
He went on to suggest that "the people who instrumentalize such a good person, so close to God ... don't have ethics; they are people who belong to a party, not to the church."
Francis said he and Benedict, who acted as Pope Emeritus and continued to live in the Vatican after leaving his post, often consulted with one another on issues.
According to Reuters, Francis argued that allegations made by conservatives that Benedict was upset over some of his decisions were nothing more than tall tales. This despire revelations from Benedict's own words in the form of posthumously published writing.
Conservative members of the Church, however, told a very different story in the numerous books and interviews released after Benedict died on December 31.
Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who served as personal secretary to Benedict, stated that Francis' decision to crack down on the use of traditional Latin mass had "broken the heart" of the former pope.
"It hit him pretty hard," he told Die Tagespost, calling the practice "a spiritual treasure."
Other members suggested a rift had been growing between Benedict and Francis ever since the former stepped down in 2013, with much of the focus surrounding the latter's agenda, often criticized as too progressive for the Church.
The Catholic Church has become decidedly more liberal in recent years, with Francis going so far as to state that while homosexuality was still a "sin," it should not be considered a crime.
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