Pope Francis says mind of predecessor Benedict XVI is 'intact, perfect'
Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI is shown in this file photo greeting the crowd from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica moments after being elected, at the Vatican, April 19, 2005 (AP / Domenico Stinellis)
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Pope Francis has said his predecessor as pontiff is having trouble getting around, but remains sharp of mind and memory, according to an interview published Sunday.
"His mind and his memory are intact, perfect," Francis said of Benedict XVI in the remarks published by La Nacion.
He also praised the 89-year-old emeritus pope as a "revolutionary." Francis said Benedict's abdication "exposed all the problems of the church" and was itself "an act of government, his final act of government."
The interview was published five days after the current and former popes appeared together at an unprecedented Vatican ceremony celebrating the 65th anniversary of Benedict's ordination as a priest.
The event underscored the continuity from Benedict to Francis even as some conservatives have expressed nostalgia for Benedict's tradition-minded papacy.
In the interview, Francis said he avoids conflict with ultra-conservatives.
"They do their work and I do mine," he said. "I want a church that is open, compassionate, that accompanies wounded families. They say no to everything."
But he added, "I'm not a head-hunter. I've never liked doing that."
Francis waved aside suggestions that he has a cool relationship with Argentina's conservative new President Mauricio Macri, describing him as "a noble person."
He acknowledged that as archbishop of Buenos Aires, he'd had a difference with Macri, then mayor, when city officials declined to appeal a court ruling that granted a marriage license to a gay couple.
He said that was their only dispute in six years. "That's a very low average," he added.