Entries in Pope Benedict (9)


Rome Adjusts to Life Without a Pope as Cardinals Prepare for Conclave

TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images(ROME) -- Around Rome Friday, there were subtle signs of the profound change taking place here.

One day after Pope Benedict’s historic resignation as head of the Catholic Church, the Vatican released footage of the papal apartment being sealed.

The Camerlengo and his men also taped the elevator shut for good measure, affixing a stamp so that no one would be tempted to use it.

“The door was taped and sealed,” Father Thomas Rosica told reporters. “The door was already locked.”

Camerlengo Tarcisio Bertone carried a traditional papal staff called the Ferula for the occasion.  As of Friday, he is no longer the secretary of state.

As Camerlengo, he is now acting head of state — with limited powers — until there’s a new pope.

Friday, the summons went out to the cardinals to be here Monday morning to start the discussion. The conclave will start shortly thereafter.

The Vatican post office issued new stamps valid only during the vacancy.

Instead of the pope’s face there’s an angel and the words “Sede Vacante” — vacant seat.  For religious philatelists and fans of the church, they are a collector’s item.

In the shop window of the pope’s tailor, the mannequin was gone today. In its place, there was simply a white cap on a red pillow — a tip of the hat to His Holiness.

But the day was bittersweet for Roman goldsmith Claudio Franchi, who designed Benedict’s Fisherman’s Ring and made it with his own hands.

The design for the seal was inspired by Michelangelo; the edges and the inside were inspired by St. Peter’s Square.

“This is my masterpiece, my Sistine Chapel,” he said.

Benedict can no longer wear it. The Vatican constitution requires the Piscatory Ring be destroyed when a pope dies so that others cannot forge his seal.

Franchi’s ring is not a signet, he insists.  He says it’s a decorative item.

It’s 18 carat gold, size 24.  Benedict is somewhere between size 23 and 24, but he asked for 24 because it’s twice the 12 Apostles.

Franchi pleaded for the ring to be spared and his prayers appear to have been answered.

According to the Vatican spokesman: “When we speak about the destruction of the ring or the seal it is usually meant as scratch marks, not necessarily smashing and destroying.”

Franchi now hopes to make the new pope’s ring. He says he already has some ideas.

And he said he hopes the slightly defaced one once worn by Benedict ends up in the Vatican museum – just like Michaelangelo’s masterpiece.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


LA Cardinal Will Attend Conclave Despite Criticism

Eric Thayer/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony has made it clear that he plans to attend the upcoming conclave to elect a new pope. His decision has received widespread criticism.

“It sends the wrong message,” said Ken Smolka, one of hundreds of people who were sexually abused by priests in America’s largest archdiocese. "If Mahony helps choose the new pope, what it says is, ‘Nothing has changed.’”

Mahony is the latest Roman Catholic prelate to have his moral authority compromised because of his poor handling of the sexual abuse scandal during the 1980s and '90s.

The scandal in Los Angeles is similar to the scandal in Boston that eventually led Cardinal Bernard Law to resign as archbishop of Boston. One key difference is that, for years, Cardinal Mahony successfully fought the release of key personnel documents relating to his administration’s handling of abuse cases. Ultimately, a judge ordered their release.

Based on the information contained in those documents, the current Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez, issued a public rebuke of his predecessor. Gomez said Cardinal Mahony would no longer perform any public duties on behalf of the archdiocese.

For an archbishop to publicly upbraid a cardinal – who outranks him in the church hierarchy – was without precedent in recent history.

Just as Cardinal Law’s participation in the 2005 conclave became a focal point for anger over the abuse scandal, Cardinal Mahony is facing criticism this time.

Speaking to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Cardinal Velasio de Paolis called it “disturbing” that Cardinal Mahony should participate in the election the new pope.

“But,” he noted, “the rules have to be respected.”

Those rules make it clear that it is the right and duty of every cardinal under the age of 80 to attend the conclave.

Mahony "could be advised not to attend only by a private intervention by someone of great authority,” said de Paolis.

“You can use persuasion; you can’t do any more,” he said.

Caramella Buona – a leading anti-pedophilia group in Italy – issued a statement this week, saying, “Mahony and other cardinals involved in covering up abuse scandals should stay away from the conclave.”

Among the others set to participate is the primate of Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, who has faced numerous calls to resign over his handling of the Irish clerical abuse scandal.

In response to questions, the Vatican has said, “It is a duty of all cardinals to come and participate in the conclave.”

The archbishop of Los Angeles has no objections either. In a letter sent to Los Angeles priests, Archbishop Gomez expressed confidence that “Cardinal Mahony’s accomplishments and experience in the areas of immigration, social justice, sacred liturgy and the role of the laity in the church will serve the College of Cardinals well as it works to discern the will of the Holy Spirit.”

Gomez added, “Having been promoted to the dignity of cardinal, Cardinal Mahony has all of the prerogatives and privileges of his standing as a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.”

Mahony’s supporters give him credit for revamping the way the archdiocese now handles allegations of
sexual abuse and helping to make Los Angeles a model for other diocese moving forward.

After 2002, he adopted a “zero tolerance” approach on issues of abuse, immediately suspending any priest accused and dismissing them if the allegations proved correct. He also brought in strict background checks for new clergy and required all volunteers in parochial schools to undergo training on the issue.

Under a judge’s order, Cardinal Mahony will be allowed to attend only after he is deposed in one of the lawsuits brought by victims of priestly abuse. The victims say they’re worried Mahony will choose to stay in Rome and thwart their quest for justice.

In a post on his personal blog, Cardinal Mahony referred to himself as a "scapegoat," while turning the other cheek to his critics.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Pope Pardons Former Butler

Franco Origlia/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- Pope Benedict has pardoned his former butler, who was convicted of stealing and leaking sensitive Vatican documents.

After meeting for around 15 minutes with his former butler in his cell, Pope Benedict decided to grant Paolo Gabriele a full pardon. He had been convicted by a Vatican court of stealing the pontiff's private papers and leaking them to a journalist. It was seen as one of the gravest Vatican security breaches in recent times.

The Vatican won't be re-hiring Gabriele, who had worked closely with the pope for six years.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pope's Butler Told Court He Leaked Private Documents for the Good of the Church

L'Osservatore Romano Vatican Pool via Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- Pope Benedict's former butler took the stand at his own trial Tuesday to say that while he admits he took thousands of documents from the pope's private apartments and leaked them to the media, he is not guilty of theft because he was doing it for the good of the church, "to bring the church back on the right track."

"I declare myself innocent concerning the charge of aggravated theft," former butler Paolo Gabriele told the court. "I feel guilty of having betrayed the trust of the Holy Father, whom I love as a son would."

Intrigue, corruption and back-stabbing are not new at The Vatican; what is new is that Gabriele's indiscretions have opened the doors on Vatican dirty deeds in a way that has never happened before.

Gabriele, 46, worked in Pope Benedict XVI's private apartments overlooking St. Peter's Square. He brought the pope his breakfast, helped him dress and was constantly at his side. No layman was closer to the pope.

Only eight accredited Vatican journalists are allowed to observe the court proceedings, which are conducted only in Italian. They are chosen by lottery.

One of them, veteran Vatican reporter Paddy Agnew of the Irish Times, told ABC News that Gabriele was calm and dignified.

For Agnew there were two critical points that surfaced:

"He points out that -- as the butler -- he is the closest lay person to him. And as example serving him at the table, he exchanges words and has a chat and he came to the conclusion that, from those exchanges that the Pope is not as informed as he should be, he does not know things that he should know ... about things in the world, in the Vatican, in the church," Agnew said. "We are not talking about football results, we are talking about serious matters of church affairs and state affairs."

"The other thing he -- he speaks of the degradation of the church, the degrade, or the dissatisfaction amongst people in the curia, he comes to the conclusion that a person of power, a person of huge decisional power is very open to manipulation," Agnew said. "He doesn't say that the pope is very open to manipulation, but one presumes that is who he is referring to."

It adds up to portrait of a pope who is not in control of his own church. Benedict, now age 85, is clearly frail. He returned just Monday from a three-month summer break at his hillside residence outside Rome.

Since he ascended to the papacy in 2005, Benedict has been criticized for being more interested in books than in the business of governing. What seems to have set off the butler is a growing sense of alienation around the pope's second-in-command, Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, who is effectively the Vatican's prime minister. Bertone has the pope's trust and runs the day-to-day affairs at the Vatican on the pope's behalf.

The scandal, known as "Vatileaks," built this spring as more and more confidential papal documents began appearing in Italian newspapers. They exposed widespread corruption, cronyism and backdoor payments in return for favors.

It reached a crescendo in May when an Italian journalist published His Holiness: Pope Benedict XVI's Private Papers, a book that became an overnight bestseller here. It chronicled intrigue and scandal and included copies of private documents to prove it. Documents show that wealthy Catholics could gain an audience with the pope simply by donating 10,000 euros ($13,000). Many of the documents point to Bertone.

In court Tuesday the pope's private secretary Georg Gaenswein said it was only when he read the book that he realized that Gabriele had to be the source of the leaks, because some documents had clearly been taken from a desk that only Gaenswein and Gabriele had access to.

That led to an Agatha Christie-like moment in the pope's apartment when Gaenswein summoned all of the papal employees into a room and asked each one: "Did you steal the documents?" Everyone, including Gabriele, denied it.

Several days later, 82 cardboard boxes of evidence were removed from the Vatican apartment Gabriele shares with his wife and three children. Again Tuesday Gabriele insisted he was acting entirely on his own, but few Vatican observers believe that.

"I think the butler is too simple a person to do something on his own," papal biographer Marco Politi said. "If it happened, there are others helping him and maybe leading him."

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Gabriele did not have malicious intent.

"Paolo Gabriele has clearly admitted having committed the act, to having collected and brought these confidential documents out. He stated that he did not act for economic gain, but because of the personal unease he was living in and feeling around him," he said.

The trial is scheduled to continue Wednesday and again on Friday when it may conclude.

Vatican sources say if Gabriele is found guilty he is almost certain to be pardoned by the pope.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pope to Induct 22 Members into College of Cardinals Saturday

TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images(ROME) -- Rome will be a sea of red on Saturday when Pope Benedict XVI inducts 22 new members into the College of Cardinals.

In a ceremony in St. Peters Basilica, the new cardinals will approach the Pope one by one, kneeling before him as he places the red, four-cornered cardinal's birretta on their heads and slides a new cardinal's ring on their fingers.

Two Americans will be among the 22 receiving the honor -- Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, and Edwin O'Brien, the former Archbishop of Baltimore.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pope Benedict Charged with Traffic Violation 

Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- The pope’s trip back to his German homeland earlier this year was greeted with cheers and some jeers, but now at least one citizen wants the pontiff to be fined for breaking the law.

A fellow German has decided to file charges against Pope Benedict for allegedly travelling around in his popemobile on the last two days of his official visit to Germany in September without wearing a seat belt.

Christian Sunderman, the lawyer representing the unnamed German complainant from Dortmund, told the German daily Berliner Zeitung that his client is no anticlerical fanatic but a man on a personal road safety crusade -- and concerned about the pope’s safety. Sunderman explained that since being in a fatal road accident many years ago, his client is insistent that authorities and celebrities give good example to others while on visits to Germany.

Two high dignitaries have been cited as eyewitnesses in this road safety violation: the Archbishop of Freiburg, president of the German Bishops Conference, the highest Catholic authority in Germany, and the minister-president of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, which includes the city of Freiburg.

The lawyer, however, admitted he hasn’t worked out how to proceed with the case yet. As Pope Benedict enjoys diplomatic immunity while on foreign visits it is unclear if he can in fact be charged with breaking the laws of the road in his native country like any German citizen.

If the case goes forward the Pope could face a euro fine of the equivalent of between $40 and $3,000.

Pope Benedict usually travels in his specially designed popemobile on his foreign trips at a walking pace to allow visibility by the crowds who show up to greet him along his route or at public ceremonies.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Holy See No Evil? International Court Asked to Investigate Pope

Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Victims of Catholic clergy sex abuse have formally asked the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into the role played by top Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict, in what the group called "crimes against humanity."

The New York-based legal group Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) announced Tuesday that the group, along with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), filed a complaint at the Hague claiming that top Vatican officials tolerated and enabled "the systematic and widespread concealing of rape and child sex crimes throughout the world."

"SNAP wants to prevent even one more child from being raped or sexually assaulted by a priest and we hope that victims around the world will know today that they are not alone and that it is safe to speak up and report their abuse," SNAP President Barbara Blaine said, according to the CCR's statement. "We as victims are mobilizing across the globe, and every survivor is invited to join us."

Pope Benedict XVI is among the top Vatican officials named in the 84-page complaint, which alleges investigators of sex abuse cases in several countries have found "intentional cover-ups and affirmative steps taken that serve to perpetuate the violence and exacerbate the harm." The complaint claims that Benedict, in his former position as head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, participated in the cover-up.

"Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, either knew and/or some cases consciously disregarded information that showed subordinates were committing or about to commit such crimes," the complaint says.

It's not the first time the Pope and top Vatican officials have been directly accused of sex abuse cover-ups.

In April 2010, Pope Benedict XVI and other officials were accused by members of of covering up alleged child abuse by 19 bishops.

At the time, the pope told reporters he was "deeply ashamed" of the allegations of sex abuse by his subordinates and reportedly said, "We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry."

Several other accusations followed from alleged victims around the world, prompting Benedict to make a public statement later that month from St. Peter's Square in the Vatican. In his speech, he said the Catholic Church would take action against alleged sexual abusers. The Pope described a tearful meeting in Malta with eight men who claimed to have been abused by clergy there.

"I shared with them their suffering, and with emotion, I prayed with them," said Benedict, "assuring them of church action."

But more than a year later, SNAP said the church has not done enough to prosecute the higher-level officials in cases of alleged cover-ups.

The International Criminal Court is meant to try cases involving "the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes," according to the court's website.

A spokesperson for the church declined to comment on the complaint for this report.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


German Catholic Church to Investigate Sex Abuse

Franco Origlia/Getty Images(BERLIN) -- Catholic Church leaders in Germany are planning to initiate a comprehensive investigation into the reported sexual abuse of children by clergy, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Church leaders will work with a group of independent criminology researchers to conduct a "systemic, empirical" investigation that will help them understand how the cases of abuse happened and better handle any reports going forward, WSJ reports.  The probe will begin with an audit of the personnel files of priests and other staff from the past decade, according to Church officials.

The timing of the investigation should be noted.  Pope Benedict XVI is expected to visit his native Germany in September and will likely feel pressured to confront the Church's handling of sexual abuse.

In Ireland, Prime Minister Enda Kenny has criticized the Vatican for resisting the methods of civil law in handling reported abuse, according to British newspaper The Guardian.  Kenny received a detailed report Wednesday that abuse had taken place as recently as 2009, The New York Times reports.

Kenny hopes to see stricter laws that will make it more difficult -- even for the leaders within the Roman Catholic Church -- to sidestep legal obligation in reporting cases of child abuse.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pope Says Condoms Can be Used, Not for Contraception

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- Excerpts of a new book by the pope contain what could herald a sweeping change in one aspect of church teachings.

Saturday's issue of the Vatican newspaper contains excerpts in which Pope Benedict says that for male prostitutes, condom use could help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV.

The church's centuries-long prohibition of contraception is unchanged officially by the writings.  The pope suggests that condom use may be a solution for people like male prostitutes, for whom contraception is not an issue.

Last year Benedict created a stir by telling journalists in Africa that condoms could actually increase the spread of disease and should not be used.  In the excerpts printed Saturday, he is quoted as saying condom use for some could be a "first step toward moralization."

The book is called "Light of the World."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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