This is the cover of "From the Depths of Our Hearts.” At the request of retired Pope Benedict XVI, his name will be removed as co-author. CNS photo/Ignatius Press
This is the cover of "From the Depths of Our Hearts.” At the request of retired Pope Benedict XVI, his name will be removed as co-author. CNS photo/Ignatius Press
" Considering the polemics provoked by the publication of the book, it has been decided that the author of the book for future editions will be Cardinal Sarah, with the contribution of Benedict XVI. "
VATICAN CITY – At the request of retired Pope Benedict XVI, his name will be removed as co-author of a book defending priestly celibacy, said Cardinal Robert Sarah, the Vatican official who coordinated work on the book.

"Considering the polemics provoked by the publication of the book, 'From the Depths of Our Hearts,' it has been decided that the author of the book for future editions will be Cardinal Sarah, with the contribution of Benedict XVI," Cardinal Sarah tweeted Jan. 14.

"However," he said, "the full text remains absolutely unchanged."

The tweeted announcement came only a few hours after Cardinal Sarah had issued a formal statement accusing people of slandering him by saying that while Pope Benedict may have contributed notes or an essay to the book, he was not co-author of it.

Archbishop Georg Ganswein, personal secretary to Pope Benedict, phoned several German news agencies and spoke with the Reuters news agency Jan. 14, saying the retired pope had requested that his name be removed as co-author of the book, its introduction and its conclusion. The archbishop confirmed that the book's first chapter, attributed to Pope Benedict, was the work of the retired pope.

Since marriage and priesthood both demand the total devotion and self-giving of a man to his vocation, "it does not seem possible to realize both vocations simultaneously," retired Pope Benedict wrote in his essay.

The French newspaper Le Figaro published excerpts of the book late Jan. 12 and, almost immediately, some people began questioning just how much of the work actually was written by the 92-year-old former pope.

The introduction and conclusion were attributed jointly to the retired pope and to Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; the book has two other chapters, one attributed to each of them alone.

The book was to be published in French Jan. 15 and in English Feb. 20 by Ignatius Press.

Given Pope Benedict's declining health and energy, many questions were raised about just how much of what was attributed to him was written by him and about the decision to list "Benedict XVI" as co-author of the book, rather than "Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI," the form he used for his series of books on Jesus of Nazareth.

At the end of a day of questions and accusations posted on Twitter, Cardinal Sarah tweeted early Jan. 14: "Attacks seem to imply a lie on my part. These defamations are of exceptional gravity."

And, as "the first proofs of my close collaboration with Benedict XVI to write this text in favor of celibacy," he tweeted photographs of correspondence from the retired pontiff.

In the first letter, dated Sept. 20, Pope Benedict said that before receiving a letter from Cardinal Sarah dated Sept. 5 he already had "begun to write a reflection on priesthood. But while writing I increasingly felt my energies would no longer allow me to edit a theological text."

"Then your letter arrived with the unexpected request for a text precisely on priesthood with particular attention to celibacy," the retired pope continued. "So, I took up my work again and will send you the text when it is translated from German into Italian. I will leave it up to you to decide if these notes, whose inadequacy I strongly feel, can have some usefulness."

In a brief note posted by Cardinal Sarah and dated Oct. 12, Pope Benedict wrote that "finally I can send you my thoughts on the priesthood. I leave it up to you if you can find some usefulness in my poor thoughts."

In a formal statement released Jan. 14, Cardinal Sarah said that after meeting Pope Benedict Sept. 5, he wrote to the retired pope saying that with debate about mandatory priestly celibacy already begun before the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, he realized Pope Benedict might not think the timing was right for him to intervene on the subject because of "the polemics it could provoke in the newspapers."

Nevertheless, the cardinal said, he believed a contribution from Pope Benedict would be a gift to the whole church and "could be published at Christmas or at the beginning of 2020."

Cardinal Sarah said Pope Benedict gave him "a long text" on Oct. 12. and he realized that rather than publishing it in a journal or magazine, it would be more appropriate as part of a book.

"I immediately proposed to the pope emeritus integrating his own text and mine for the publication of a book that would be an immense good for the church," the cardinal said.

After several exchanges, he said, on Nov. 19 he sent "a complete manuscript to the pope emeritus comprising, as we had decided by mutual agreement, the cover, an introduction and a common conclusion, the text of Benedict XVI and my own text."

The cardinal tweeted a photo of a letter dated Nov. 25 in which Pope Benedict thanked him "for the text added to my contribution and for the whole elaboration you have done."

"For my part, the text can be published in the form you envisaged," Pope Benedict added.

The chapter attributed to Pope Benedict is about 25 pages long, including a six-page reprint of the homily he gave at the chrism Mass in St. Peter's Basilica in March 2008 on the meaning of "being a priest of Jesus Christ," specifically in standing in the presence of God and serving him. The homily did not mention celibacy.

In a chapter originally attributed to both the retired pope and the cardinal, they said the book resulted from an exchange of "ideas and our concerns," particularly related to the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, which heard repeated calls for considering the ordination of married elders to serve far-flung communities and provide greater access to the Eucharist and other sacraments.

Pope Francis' response to the requests of the synod is expected early in the year. Observers noted how unusual it was for the retired pope to intervene publicly on an issue the reigning pope is considering.

Cardinal Sarah and Pope Benedict seemed to recognize how unusual the move was, but the introduction said, "'Silere non possum!' I cannot be silent!"

The introduction said the two offered their reflections "in a spirit of love for the unity of the Church" and in "a spirit of filial obedience to Pope Francis."