Entries in St. Peter's Square (4)


Papal Conclave 2013 Not Politics as Usual

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- More than 100,000 pilgrims came to St. Peter's Square Sunday to attend Pope Benedict XVI's last Sunday prayer and blessing. The crowd interrupted the pope several times with applause, but Benedict was business as usual.

Apparently he is not big on goodbyes.

This was the last time the world will see him in the window for his Sunday noon appointment with the faithful.

This time next week he'll be gone from the Vatican. The campaign to choose the new pope will be in full swing.

Choosing a New Pope

It's an electoral process like no other -- an absolute monarch is elected in secret by princes who are appointed.

It all takes place behind locked doors in the Sistine Chapel, the ultimate smoke-filled room. The results are transmitted by smoke signal and quickly confirmed in Latin.

Palace intrigue is part of the history but this year the church is struggling with a different sort of challenge. This time the media is accused of meddling.

Pope Benedict's resignation - the first in modern history - makes the papacy seem almost presidential. And the reporters, gathered to witness this historic transition, are covering it almost as a New Hampshire primary.

We introduce our viewers and readers to the possible candidates. We look for dark horses and examine whatever skeletons may be lurking in the closet. We also pay careful attention to the locals, the Italians who know the story best.

Conclave Politics Set Against Italy's Political Backdrop

That said, Italy has a political and media culture very different from the Granite State. Politics here can be opera, at times even opera buffa.

By sheer coincidence, Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is up for election again this weekend.

This is the same Berlusconi accused of paying a young Moroccan dancer for sex at his so-called Bunga Bunga parties. He is a billionaire media mogul, with a spray tan and a brash manner.

If he loses Sunday's election, he'll be back in court next month in his sex-for-hire trial. If he wins, he'll enjoy immunity as an elected official.

Against that backdrop, the Italian media is portraying the Vatican political culture as being equally depraved, drenched in ambition, wine and pheromones.

The Rome papers are full of reports that sound like the plot of a Dan Brown novel, starting with a shadowy Vatican dossier supposedly detailing a gay sex and blackmail scandal involving the curia.

Rather unfairly for the church, a dossier does actually exist, the findings of an internal investigation the pope commissioned into the Vatileaks affair.

In that scandal, the pope’s butler leaked documents from the papal chambers and ended up as the first prisoner in years to wind up in the Vatican dungeons. (He has since been convicted and pardoned, provided with an apartment and a job with the church.)

So the document exists. But only the pope and his closest circle know what's in it.

Church officials cannot flatly deny the details being reported about its contents, because they have no idea. All they can say is the stories in the Italian press are "unverified, unverifiable, and even completely false."

At the same time, the church is dealing with a scandal that is verified, verifiable, and all too disturbingly true: the sex abuse scandal, in which several of the cardinals who will be voting on the new pope are implicated themselves, either as abusers or as managers who shielded pedophile priests from the law and covered up for their crimes.

Both stories are upstaging what is supposed to be a deeply spiritual process of choosing the next successor to St. Peter.

But, largely because of the sex abuse scandal, the church has lost some of that air of infallibility it could rely on in years past.

One more point worth making: the blind items in the Italian papers may well be planted by cardinals hoping to spin the process for or against a particular candidate.

The faithful, confronted for a decade now with the failures of priests and prelates, have the confidence to challenge church authority. How the church responds will be a test of grace under fire.

By stepping down, Pope Benedict may have opened the doors to all this. By suddenly announcing his resignation, he has upended tradition, making the papacy presidential.

One thing it's decidedly not is politics as usual.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Kateri Tekakwitha Becomes First American Indian Saint

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(VATICAN CITY) -- Kateri Tekakwitha was named the first Native American saint on Sunday by Pope Benedict XVI in a ceremony held in St. Peter’s Square.

Some 80,000 people came to the open-air ceremony as the 17th century Mohawk-Algonquin woman and six others were canonized.

The canonization ceremony happened at the same time the world’s bishops descended on the Vatican to discuss ways to revive faith in parts of the world where it is falling by the wayside.

Among some of the select faithful who were chosen to receive communion from the pope was Jake Finkbonner.  The Washington boy was near death for months with a flesh eating bacteria, but made a miraculous recovery that the Vatican credited to Tekakwitha.

The Vatican said it believes that the prayers Finkbonner’s family directed to Tekakwitha were responsible for bringing the boy back from the brink of death.

Finkbonner cut his lip during the last minute of a Boys & Girls Club basketball game in 2006.

“I was running down court with the ball, I stopped in front of the hoop to shoot when I was pushed from behind,” Jake wrote on his website.  ”I flew forward and hit my mouth on the base of the portable basketball hoop.”

Two days later, he wrote,  he was in the hospital with a strep bacteria infection that had spread across his face, head and chest.

“It’s a bacteria that can cause severe infections in unusual circumstances but most of us don’t ever have any problems with it,” said Dr. Christopher Ohl, a doctor at Wake Forest Baptist Medical.  “But if all of the circumstances come together and the setting is just right, it can get in through the skin and cause a severe infection.”

Ohl said the chance of survival for people with the bacteria is roughly 50-50.

At the urging of the family’s priest, the Finkbonners began praying to Tekakwitha, who converted to Christianity when she was 18 and became a fervent follower.

Her face was scarred by smallpox as a child, but it is claimed that the scars disappeared after she died in 1680 at the age of 24.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pope Benedict XVI Delivers Traditional Message of Peace on Easter Sunday

L'Osservatore Romano/Getty Image(VATICAN CITY, Italy) -- Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square in Rome on Sunday among tens of thousands of faithful pilgrims.

The Pope delivered his traditional message of peace, calling on "an end to bloodshed and an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation" in Syria, "peace and stability" in Mali and "the strength needed to take up anew the building of a society which is peaceful and respectful of the religious freedom of its citizens" in Nigeria. He also appealed to Israelis and Palestinians to "courageously take up anew the peace process" and asked that the inhabitants of the Great Lakes Region, Sudan and South Sudan "the power of forgiveness."

When the Pope finished his speech, he offered Easter greetings in more than sixty languages.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pope Benedict Beatifies Pope John Paul II at Vatican Ceremony

JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images(ROME) -- Pope Benedict XVI beatified Pope John Paul II Sunday at St. Peter's Square before an estimated one million people, declaring the Polish-born pope to be "Blessed" and putting him one step closer to sainthood.

Among the faithful was a French nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who says she was cured of Parkinson's disease after praying to the pope only months after his death from complications of the same disease. The Vatican certified Sister Pierre's cure as a "miracle" and advanced John Paul's cause. Beatification is defined as one being "blessed," and is the first step in the process of being declared a saint by the Church. A second miracle tied to John Paul is needed before his canonization.

Posters honoring John Paul's life were put up all over Rome ahead of the ceremony. Large television screens showing images of Pope John Paul II were erected along the Via della Conciliazione, the Roman street that leads to St. Peter's Basilica.

Ahead of the ceremonies, the pope's coffin was carried from its resting place in the Vatican crypt beneath St. Peter's and placed before St. Peter's tomb where pilgrims filed past to pay their respects. A vial of John Paul's blood, taken during the last days before his death, was also put on display.

As pope, John Paul II beatified more people than the total of all other popes since the 15th century reign of Pope Sixtus VI, leading some critics to speculate that he was rapidly pushed to sainthood.

Joe Lynaugh of the Catholic movement, Call to Action, opposes John Paul II's potential canonization.

"This will just go down as another disappointment from a church that is unfortunately filled with disappointments these days," Lynaugh told ABC News. "Sainthood, maybe, but let's decide a couple hundred years from now. I'd settle with 10."

Father Thomas Williams, a Catholic priest and professor at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum in Rome, disagrees.

"This was a response to a grassroots petition rather than a top-down decision," he said. "There was public clamor for Pope John Paul II to be recognized as a saint as soon as he died. The Church merely acceded to the wishes of the faithful. The process began quickly but there were no shortcuts taken in the process itself.”

The Vatican said at least 21 heads of state and 87 official delegations from around the world attended the ceremony, including presidents Giorgio Napolitano of Italy, Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland and Felipe Calderon of Mexico.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐

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