VATICAN CITY - In his first interview about his firing in 2013, ex-Pope Benedict recalled being summoned to a meeting of the College of Cardinals on a ruse.
“They told me they wanted me to see a new painting in the Sistine Chapel," he explained. "As soon as I walked in, I knew this was trouble. They were all sitting there, very solemn, and they had that look that they were about to fire the Pope. I tried to crack a joke -- something about how tough it is for me to pray in the chapel with all those naked people in the murals staring at me -- but not one of them smiled.
"They sat me down and said,‘Pope, we’ve decided to go in a different direction’ — no other explanation. I was dumbfounded. "'You mean, I'm out?' I asked. One of the cardinals said, "I'm sorry, the decision has been made."
"Then we got into this whole big thing about whether I have another week's vacation time coming to me. Then these two Swiss Guards came in and escorted me to the church. They stood there while I cleaned my stuff off the altar. Then some monsignor asked for my keys to the Papal Palace and the Popemobile and told me that HR would answer any questions I might have."
"That's the thanks I get," he said. "I hope they treat this new guy better than me."
The ex-Pontiff confided that he had a "golden parachute," but wouldn't reveal the dollar value of it. He said his four-year non-compete period -- standard for former popes -- has ended, so he’s starting to "explore other opportunities" in other religions.
“I’m knocking on a few doors, let’s just leave it at that," he said.