Entries in Rome (22)


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


Cardinal Roger Mahony Tweets, But Not About Deposition

Eric Thayer/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Cardinal Roger Mahony is clearly excited about his trip to Rome.

On the eve of the cardinal’s sworn deposition in a lawsuit over a priest accused of molesting 26 boys in his archdiocese in 1987, Mahony sent this, his 13th tweet, to his 979 followers:

“@CardinalMahony Just a few short hours before my departure for Rome. Will be tweeting often from Rome, except during the actual Conclave itself. Prayers!”

The cardinal doesn’t mention that before he boards the plane he’ll have to give a four hour deposition in the case of Father Nicolas Aguilar-Rivera, who fled to Mexico shortly after a top Mahony aid warned the cardinal the pedophile priest was likely to be arrested.

Mahony’s successor Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez publicly rebuked the cardinal for his mishandling of this and dozens of other cases.

One of Mahony’s fellow cardinals told an Italian newspaper “it’s disturbing” that Mahony should help choose the new pope. Cardinal Velasio de Paolis politely suggested the L.A. cardinal recluse himself.

But Cardinal Mahony doesn’t get into all that in his tweet. Maybe 140 characters isn’t enough room.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


American Student Accused of Stabbing Roommate 25 Times in Rome

Comstock/Thinkstock(ROME) -- A U.S. student studying abroad has been arrested for attempted murder for allegedly stabbing his roommate 25 times after a drug-fueled night out in Rome on Halloween.

At an apartment around the corner from Rome's famous Coliseum, 20-year-old Reid Alexander Schepis, a first-year student at John Cabot University, a private U.S. liberal arts college, allegedly stabbed his longtime friend Fabio Malpeso, 19.  Schepis and Malpeso, friends from New Jersey, were partying late Halloween at a Rome night club.

Schepis told authorities he'd used drugs for the first time that night, mixing ecstasy and alcohol.  He told police that he has no memory of what happened after the two headed to the apartment Malpeso shared with his sister to sleep off the wild night, and he allegedly went into his sleeping friend's room at dawn and repeatedly stabbed him.

Malpeso's sister and her boyfriend heard the screams and ran to help.  Malpeso survived the stab wounds and is now recovering in a Rome hospital.

Former FBI agent and ABC News consultant Brad Garret says the evidence suggests drugs were a factor in the crime.

"The story on the surface certainly sounds like some sort of drug-induced, either psychosis or hallucination, or something, [for] this one student to stab this other student in excess of 25 times, as has been described," he said.  "That is somebody that is in a frenzy.  That isn't someone accidentally, or in a rage, [stabbing] someone."

Schepis' attorney Vincenzo Comi said his client is distraught.

"Every time that his friend was named, Reid became profoundly upset and cried while apologizing for what he had done," he said.

The stabbing occurred five years to the day that British student Meredith Kercher was found brutally stabbed to death in the apartment she shared with Amanda Knox, the U.S. student studying in Perugia, Italy, who made headlines for years as she fought murder charges.

Knox and her then-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, had also allegedly been taking drugs the night of Kercher's death, smoking marijuana.  The two were accused and convicted of the killing in 2009, but the decision was overturned last October and both set free.

On Monday, Malpeso is still recovering in a hospital in Rome after having surgery for stab wounds to his lungs.  Schepis is under house arrest at an undisclosed location.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Italian Police Find Pot Farm in Abandoned Rome Subway

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ROME) -- Italian police said they have discovered $3.7 million-worth of marijuana in a sprawling, sophisticated pot farm hidden deep in an abandoned, Mussolini-era section of Rome’s subway system.

Authorities said they stumbled onto the find after police on regular patrol in the area noticed the scent of marijuana wafting from a section of the subway tunnels that reportedly were abandoned during the Second World War.

Officers followed their noses through what turned out to be a hidden door in a brick wall Saturday and found a large, highly sophisticated pot growing operation with hundreds of plants lined down the tunnels, precise scales on work desks and a fully functional lighting system, according to a statement and video posted online Monday by Italy’s Guardia di Finanza. Police also discovered several trash bags full of what appeared to be marijuana plants as well as bags of smoke-ready pot.

In all, the Italian police said they confiscated approximately 750 pounds of narcotics, worth an estimated $3.7 million on the street. The alleged owner of the farm, who was not identified, was taken into custody, the Guardia di Finanza statement said.

“It was a very organized group, which had invested significantly,” Col. Stefano Corsi told The New York Times. ”It was a regular business. It was a very sophisticated operation.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Man Falls Asleep on Airport Baggage Belt, Goes Through X-Ray

Fair Use(ROME) -- A photo that appears to be of a man going through an airport X-ray machine is making the rounds on the Internet.

A Norwegian tourist fell asleep on a baggage belt at Rome’s Fiumicino airport and traveled 160 feet before being identified by an X-ray scanner, The Telegraph reported.

The 36-year-old man, whose name has not been released, was due to check in for a flight to Oslo, but found no one on duty at the airline desk.  He leapt across the counter and fell asleep on the baggage belt with his bag beside him, the paper reported. The man then traveled for 15 minutes through the secure baggage area before being spotted on an X-ray scanner by airport officials.

An airport police officer denied the incident showed cracks in security. And, it seems this kind of incident is not terribly unusual among, "drunks or people with psychological problems.”  In fact, the paper reports the official as saying this kind of thing happens about once a year.

Italian newspaper la Repubblica reported the man was intoxicated. The man was reportedly carrying a backpack and a beer at the time of the incident. He was taken to a hospital because of exposure to the X-rays and is facing charges.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Boy, 11, Flies to Rome With No Ticket or Family

Bryan Mullennix/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Authorities are investigating how a solo 11-year-old boy boarded a plane from Manchester, U.K., and arrived in Rome, Italy, with no money or documentation.

The flight departed the Manchester airport Tuesday with the boy onboard. He went through five security checkpoints undetected, an airport spokeswoman confirmed to ABC News. Despite having no boarding pass at security, no boarding pass at the gate, no passport and no boarding pass stub once on the plane, airport workers failed to notice the boy was on his own. Even a headcount onboard the flight failed to detect the child. is a low-cost U.K. airline that flies to 53 destinations in Eastern and Western Europe.

Staffers have been suspended, pending an investigation.

The Guardian newspaper reports the boy ran away from his mother on Tuesday while she was shopping close to the airport. He apparently made his way to the airport on foot. Once there, he followed another family through the checkpoints and onto the plane.

On the way to Italy, passengers alerted airline crew to the boy. The captain then notified police at Manchester airport, who alerted the boy's mother that he had been found. The boy's mother had reported him missing.

The boy stayed onboard the aircraft once it landed in Rome, according to the newspaper. The other passengers deplaned while the boy was questioned. He remained on the flight, which returned to Manchester, where he was reunited with his mother.

John Greenway, a spokesman for Manchester airport, told the newspaper: "We know that people are not very happy about it. The investigation will look at how this has happened. Jet2 will be looking at how this boy got on that aircraft."

"He's evaded checks. He did go through the metal detector and didn't sound any alarms. He wasn't a danger to any of the passengers," he continued.

The breech shines a light on potential cracks in security as the 2012 Olympics in London kicks off later this week. Earlier this month, Britain's The Observer published a report quoting border officials as saying known terror suspects had slipped through airport security at London's Heathrow international airport.

Government officials told ABC News that report was not accurate, but said an independent auditor had claimed there are many new, hastily trained guards at the airport who sometimes do not question travelers as diligently as they should.

On Tuesday, British officials called up an additional 1,200 soldiers today to try and fix what they called a security "fiasco" with G4S, the private security firm tasked to secure the 2012 Olympic Games, but British security officials tell ABC News even though they are finally getting the number of guards they need, they are still not confident in the training that G4S guards received or the security they can provide.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Roman Artifacts Targeted by Tourists as Take-Home Gifts

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ROME) -- Italian authorities say that tourists are loving their visit to Rome so much, they’re trying to take a bit of the city back home with them.

According to The Telegraph, security at the capital’s Fiumicino and Ciampino airports say their staffs have noticed an increase in cobblestones and other artifacts showing up in fliers’ luggage during X-ray screenings.

“The phenomenon is definitely on the increase,” said Antonio del Grego, head of Fiumicino’s frontier police. “The airport police and security are on the alert.”

Though some media reports said the pieces looked more like the modern-day cobblestones now mostly made in China, del Grego said that was not the case.

“Most of the cobblestones we found are the handmade ones from the 1900s,” del Grego told ABC News Monday. “They are not the newer ones.”

In addition to the blocks, tourists have also reportedly tried to transport volcanic rock, ancient Roman mosaics and milestone.

“Some of the bits of archaeological pieces could be from the Colosseum, we think, but it is hard to identify from where they were taken from,” del Grego said.

The frontier police head said that an expert had confirmed that a mosaic uncovered in a person’s baggage had come from an archaeological site at Ostia Antica, an ancient Roman port.

In the last six months, 10 people have been denounced for theft. Del Grego said that none of the people stopped had been American.

“Many of them are people from northern Europe of a certain age,” he said. “It is hard because we have to prove that these items are stolen and as the value of the stolen good is of little value and we often don’t know where it comes from, this is difficult.”

Del Grego told the Telegraph that those found with stones or other artifacts were not arrested. They are cautioned and the artifacts are returned to the city.

“More than the judicial proceeding, what we hope will put people off is the shame they will feel when they are discovered,” he said. “Then along with the shame, some even miss their flights.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gladiators, Centurions Scuffle Again at Rome’s Colosseum

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ROME) -- For years now a common site in front of the city’s most known attraction, the Colosseum, has been men dressed as the soldiers and warriors who actually battled inside the arena more than 2,000 years ago.

These “gladiators and centurions” are a group of around 30 men aged from teens to their 60s who pose for tourists in exchange for tips. They ask $7 to $10 for a photo. Sometimes they are even more aggressive. Last year, one gladiator tried to con a Japanese tourist after they snapped a photo and physically threatened him when he wouldn’t hand over $130.

After years of the previous government turning a blind eye, the authority responsible for Rome’s cultural heritage, Mariarosaria Barbera, sent a letter to Rome’s mayor demanding that the fake gladiators be removed along with the illegal snack bar wagons and ice cream vendors that swarm around the ancient arena to fight for tourist attention.

Although some tourists seem to enjoy their antics and having their picture taken with a burly looking Italian dressed in fake leather tunics and plastic helmets, some of the characters dressed as gladiators look nothing like Russell Crowe and are often not even Roman.

Thursday morning as the gladiators staged a noisy protest outside, two from the group made their way to the second floor to hang a banner on the exterior of the Colosseum protesting the decision to ban them from panhandling. “Let us work at the Colosseum, give us the right to let us stay here,” they yelled.

The group had been notified previously that a blitz by the police was coming. Instead of obeying a cease and desist warning to stop their work they occupied a section of the arena for much of the day. When police and firemen moved in to cordon the area, two of the gladiators scuffled with the police as stunned tourists watched, some screaming support for the gladiators.

Paramedics took one of the centurions to the hospital after he fell during the confrontation, police said. Firefighters have taken up positions outside the Colosseum to protect the monument and to prevent the protestors from reentering the historic site. One has even threatened to light himself on fire to bring attention to their cause.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


22 New Cardinals Created at Ceremony in Rome

Franco Origlia/Getty Images(ROME) -- Pope Benedict XVI appointed 22 new cardinals in a ceremony on Saturday at St Peter's Basilica in Rome.

The cardinals join an elite group of members who are the pope's closest aides and also choose the Roman Catholic leader's successor. The 84-year-old pontiff presented the cardinals with red hats and gold rings during the ceremony which is called the Consistory

New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Baltimore's Archbishop Edwin O'Brien from the United States as well as Archbishop Thomas Collins from Toronto were among the appointed cardinals.

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

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