Entries in The Vatican (10)


Pope Francis Addresses Media for First Time

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images(ROME) -- The newly elected Pope Francis met with thousands of reporters Saturday morning for the first time since he was selected to lead the Catholic Church.

Before the pontiff addressed the media throng, a Vatican spokesman made clear that he would not be answering questions. Pope Francis did speak in 4-5 languages, showcasing his linguistic skills.

Much of the half-hour address was interrupted by laughter and applause, according to USA Today, as the former cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio showed a level of comfort at his new post.

Much of the pope's address made clear that he was determined to make sure that the church understands the needs of the poor around the world. The Vatican gave approximately 5,000 credentials for the event, to media members from 81 different countries.

According to USA Today, the pope explained how he came to select his papal name honoring St. Francis of Assisi, a man who gave away his many riches to work with the poor. Pope Francis also revealed that one of the first things one of his fellow cardinals said to him after the election was decided in his favor was a simple message, "Don't forget the poor."

The message was similar to a speech the pontiff gave about a week before the secret conclave, in which he explained to the other cardinals that it was important for the church to focus on issues outside the realm of the Vatican.

In that speech, which helped convince many of the other cardinals that he was the right leader for the Catholic Church, Cardinal Bergoglio stressed that the core mission must be "humility, dignity and justice," according to the Wall Street Journal.

Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with his predecessor, Benedict XVI next Saturday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


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


Can a Voting Cardinal Skip the Papal Conclave?

Franco Origlia/Getty Images(ROME) -- Monday’s announcement by British Cardinal Keith O’Brien that he will not be attending the conclave begs the question: can he refuse to do so?

As of Monday, the pope accepted O’Brien’s resignation as Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh. But O’Brien retains the title of cardinal and is eligible to vote in the conclave.

He made it clear he does not intend to do so.

“I will not join them for this Conclave in person,” O’Brien said in a statement. “I do not wish media attention in Rome to be focused on me -- but rather on Pope Benedict XVI and on his Successor.”

The Vatican has insisted all week that attendance is mandatory. Electing the new pope, officials have said, is one of a cardinal’s most important, most sacred jobs and no “political or worldly issues” should keep him from it.

The issue has come up repeatedly in the context of the church abuse scandal. Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, Irish Cardinal Sean Brady and others have faced intense pressure in their communities to recuse themselves on moral grounds, amid evidence they covered up for pedophile priests.

President Obama’s outgoing ambassador to the Holy See Miguel Diaz reportedly said yesterday that Mahony should “reflect on the example set by the pope.”

“He certainly has the legal right to vote in the Conclave,” Diaz told Italy’s La Stampa. “But the Pope also had the right to continue as Pope but instead chose to step down.”

To do so would certainly be unusual. During the last conclave Cardinal Bernard Law’s participation was the focus of vehement protests. But he took his place in the Sistine Chapel nonetheless. (Law is now 81, making him too old to vote this year.)

But does canon law allow an eligible cardinal -- such as O’Brien, Mahony or Brady -- not to attend?

The answer appears to be yes, and not just because of medical emergency.

Typically, only cardinals with incapacitating illness are excused from their duties to attend the conclave. Last week Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja of Indonesia begged for precisely that reason, bringing the number of voting cardinals (under age 80) to 116.

In the past, voting cardinals from remote archdiocese also missed the occasional conclave because of the difficulties of travel. The Vatican adopted the 15-20 day rule, which was in force until Monday, to accommodate American cardinals traveling long distance to get here. (The advent of air travel has obviously made that less of an issue.)

Faced with repeated questions about cardinals embroiled in scandal, Vatican officials have insisted those are the only reasons for cardinal electors to miss an election.

Amended rules issued Monday by Pope Benedict call attention to an article in the Apostolic Constitution Universi Domenici Gregis, the rules governing a papal vacancy and election.

These rules do anticipate the circumstance of a cardinal refusing to take part in a papal election for reasons other than illness.

Under Paragraph 40, there’s this:

If a Cardinal with the right to vote should refuse to enter Vatican City in order to take part in the election, or subsequently, once the election has begun, should refuse to remain in order to discharge his office, without manifest reason of illness attested to under oath by doctors and confirmed by a majority of the electors, the other Cardinals shall proceed freely with the election, without waiting for him or readmitting him.

The paragraph goes on to say if the cardinal leaves for medical reasons -- or “for some grave reason acknowledged as such by the majority of electors” -- and later wants to come back, the conclave must readmit him.

So it appears O’Brien can indeed miss the conclave if he feels he’ll be a distraction. The question now: What about Mahony and Brady?

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Vatican Furious over ‘False’ News Reports

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- In an impromptu briefing on Saturday morning, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi responded again to the worldwide distribution of “unverified, unverifiable, or even false” news stories.

Lombardi declined to say which specific news stories objects to, but he appeared to be referring to the report, first carried by Italy’s Panorama and La Repubblica, claiming Pope Benedict XVI is resigning rather than face the fallout of a scandal involving gay clergy who are supposedly being blackmailed.

Foreign news outlets have picked up the story on Saturday, attributing only the Italian press accounts.

“It is deplorable that there be a widespread distribution of news stories often not verified or verifiable – false even – that seriously damage people and institutions,” Lombardi said.

Lombardi accused the news media of meddling in the papal election — just monarchs, nobles, and dictators sought to do in centuries past.

In the past, he said, it was the state that tried to pressure the cardinal’s decision. “Now there is an attempt to do this through public opinion.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


The Vatican No Longer Accepting Credit Cards

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(VATICAN CITY) -- For those hoping to visit The Vatican in Rome, keep your plastic to yourself: the symbolic seat of the Catholic Church is going cash-only.

The decision was implemented after a lengthy review by the Italian Central Bank, which declared Vatican City -- the independent city-state in Rome that's home to the Pope -- is unable to comply with a program meant to curb money laundering.

According to the BBC, Pope Benedict vowed greater transparency in Vatican finances after the Vatican's official bank, the Institute for Works of Religion, was implicated in major money laundering scandals.

The measure means purchases of entry tickets, trinkets and other souvenirs from Vatican gift shops -- as well as church donations -- must be conducted using cash until Vatican City is determined to be in compliance.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Pope Benedict XVI to Join Twitter

L'Osservatore Romano Vatican Pool via Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- The Vatican announced on Thursday that Pope Benedict XVI would start tweeting from his own Twitter account.

Benedict, 85, sent a tweet last year from a Vatican account.  It’s believed that since he rarely uses a computer he will simply dictate tweets, but not type them himself.

No word yet on what the pope's new handle will be or when the account will be launched.

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


Vatileaks Butler Pleads Not Guilty, Admits to Abusing Pope's Trust 

Franco Origlia/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) – Pope Benedict XVI’s butler was in Vatican Court Tuesday, where he pleaded not guilty to aggravated theft charges.

According to the BBC, Paolo Gabriele, 46, admitted to abusing the Pope’s trust and photocopying documents from Benedict’s apartment, but maintained that he did not think his actions constituted a crime.

Gabriele also insisted he acted alone in releasing the trove of papal documents known as Vatileaks. The BBC’s Alan Johnston reported that Gabriele denied having accomplices, though he did admit to having contacts throughout the Vatican, which is filled with “widespread unease.”

The butler also complained about his treatment in jail, complaining that when he first arrived, his cell was so small he couldn’t hold out his arms, the BBC says, and lights were kept on at all hours of the day.  The Vatican claims that his detainment has been up to international standards.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pope's Butler Stands Trial for Vatileaks

Franco Origlia/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- The Vatileaks scandal continues as Pope Benedict’s personal butler stood trial Saturday for releasing sensitive church documents to the public.

Similar to Wikileaks, Vatileaks contains reams and reams of papers. But according to Italian journalist Marco Politi, the documents leaked by Paolo Gabriele, “always focused on matters of money and power.”

Because the butler has already confessed, Politi thinks the prosecution’s main goal will be to identify those who helped Gabriele release the documents. “Around [Gabriele] there is a group of dissidents," he says, "Who are uneasy about the way the government of the Holy See is working and especially about the leadership of Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone.”

The 77-year-old Bertone is Pope Benedict's long-time deputy and trusted confidant.

According to the Telegraph, Gabriele is also accused of stealing a collection of gifts intended for the Pope, such as gold, artifacts and a check made out to Benedict for 100,000 Euros. If convicted, Gabriele faces up to four years in prison. He will appear in court again on Tuesday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pope Benedict Has Custom Designed Cologne

TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images(ROME) -- Italian celebrity perfume-maker Silvana Casoli has created her most heavenly scent yet for a very special client, Pope Benedict XVI.

Speaking to Rome's daily paper, Il Messaggero, the aroma designer known as "the Nose" said that the name of the pope's specially-commissioned scent is top secret and she is not allowed to divulge all of its ingredients. She did, however, reveal that she was inspired by the pope's love of "nature" and used a blend of fragrances from lime-wood, verbena and grass.

"I love speaking of my work," said Casoli, "but this time I can't. I am very devoted to the Holy Father." She promises his special cologne will never be reproduced for anyone else.

Casoli said she nearly fainted when she received the phone call from the Vatican and took months working on the commission in her small laboratory in northern Italy. At times she thought she would abandon it, but then she said she got inspired.

"I realized that an essence like this had to have at its core something pure and clean, recalling the idea of peace," she said. "I thought of the smells the pope would smell when praying at the Grotto of Lourdes" and about "his love for music, animals, green Bavarian forests."

Pope Benedict XVI, who is 85 and was once the archbishop of Cologne, Germany, is known for his elegance in both speech and attire. His attention to detail and color in his papal clothing has often been commented on and he has reintroduced a number of items to papal attire during his papacy, like his fur-lined, short, deep-red cape. Shortly after his election it was said that he wore Prada shoes and Gucci sunglasses, all quietly denied by the pope's entourage.

The Vatican does not comment on products used by the pope and the pope's image is carefully protected from inappropriate commercial exploitation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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