February 16, 2013

Vatican's legendary secrecy gets peeled away after pope resigns

The modern era puts new pressure on the Vatican, which is unused to wordly accountability.

By VICTOR L. SIMPSON The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Pope Benedict XVI wears a Mexican sombrero in Leon, Mexico, in March 2012. Turin’s La Stampa newspaper reported this week that Benedict hit his head and bled during the trip. No mention was made of the incident at the time. The pope, 85, is reported to have decided to resign shortly after the trip, which he found exhausting.

2012 Associated Press File Photo/L’Osservatore Romano

NOT EVERYONE WAS SURPRISED

On the day of the announcement the Vatican cast it as a bolt from the blue, saying almost nobody knew but Benedict himself. Soon, however, prominent clergymen -- one not even Catholic -- began changing the tone and saying they were not surprised.

"Knowing the pope well, there was something in the air that this decision of the pope was possible," said Archbishop Piero Marini, master of papal ceremonies under Pope John Paul II. "So it was not a shock."

Even the retired Arcbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Rowan Williams, says that based on his last meeting with Benedict a year ago he was not surprised at the decision to step down.

"Because of our last conversation I was very conscious that he was recognizing his own frailty and it did cross my mind to wonder whether this was a step he might think about," Williams told Vatican Radio.

WORK ON NEW QUARTERS STARTED

Renovation work on a convent previously occupied by cloistered nuns has been going on in secret since at least last fall, an issue apparently causing grumbling among cardinals about the choice of arrangements and whether Benedict's presence on Vatican grounds will allow the retired pope to wield too much influence on his successor.

"I don't think there was a consultation of the College of the Cardinals about this," Lombardi said Wednesday, deflecting questions about Benedict's living arrangements. "The decision and the process of the decision was very limited in the number of persons involved."

That points to another aspect of Vatican secrecy: The habit of different wings of the Holy See jealously concealing information from one another.

"There is very little cross communication within Vatican departments," Thavis said, "so one department may know something but that does not mean that the Curia office down the hall knows about it as well."

 

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