Discord and wire tapping revelations as pope flies out
On the day the pope officially ended his tenure, revelations emerged of wire tapping in the Vatican.
- Rachel Donadio
- Vatican City
- March 1, 2013
As the sun set on Rome and on his turbulent eight-year papacy, Pope Benedict XVI, a shy theologian who never seemed entirely at home in the limelight, was whisked by helicopter into retirement on Thursday.
But while Benedict, 85, retires to a life of prayer, study, walks in the garden and piano practice, he leaves in his wake a Vatican hierarchy facing scandals and intrigue that are casting a shadow over the cardinals entrusted with electing his successor in a conclave this month.
Even as he met with the cardinals on his final day as pope, pledging “unconditional reverence and obedience” to his successor and urging the cardinals to “work like an orchestra” harmonizing for the good of the church, the discord was apparent.
On Thursday, the Vatican confirmed reports that it had ordered wiretaps on the phones of some Vatican officials as part of a leaks investigation. Other cardinals were increasingly outspoken about the crisis of governance during Benedict’s papacy.
That failing is expected to be much in the cardinals’ minds as they begin meeting informally on Monday to discuss the state of the papacy and determine when to start the conclave, which could be as soon as next week. Earlier this week, Benedict changed church law to allow the cardinals to start the conclave before the traditional 15-day waiting period after the papacy is vacant.
In his final blessing to the faithful, who gathered outside the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo where he will live for several months, Benedict appeared tired, and even relieved, saying that from now on “I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth.”
His towering predecessor, John Paul II, wasted away with Parkinson’s disease; Benedict, whose life’s work was aimed at reconciling faith and reason, opted for a short farewell.
“Good night, and thank you,” he said in Italian to the boisterous but small crowds at Castel Gandolfo, just over two weeks after he shocked the world on Feb. 11 by announcing his retirement, the first in the modern history of the church.
Earlier, thousands of people stood in a hushed St. Peter’s Square, forming half-moon crowds around giant video screens showing the pope’s departure as sea gulls wheeled in the waning light. Many looked up and waved as his helicopter circled the square. “Viva il Papa!” several shouted. One banner read simply “Danke!!!”
Katie Martin, 29, an aspiring firefighter from Manhattan Beach, Calif., said she delayed her visit to Rome by a week to witness the historic event. “I love my faith,” she said. “I love my church. I have a great love for the Holy Father.”
Like many, Ms. Martin said she was sad to see Benedict’s papacy end. “But I’m also really excited to see what’s next,” she said.
In many ways, Benedict never seemed to fit into his red shoes. He seemed uninterested in the spectacle of power, awkward even raising his arms to greet crowds, forever disappointing photographers. On a 2009 visit to the Holy Land, he did not stop at the muddy pool in the Jordan River where Jesus is believed to have been baptized, passing by on a golf cart instead.
His critics say that on his watch, the Vatican suffered a profound crisis of governance. On Thursday, Panorama magazine reported that the Vatican Secretariat of State had ordered wiretaps on the phones of several Vatican prelates as part of an investigation into the scandal in which confidential documents were leaked to the news media and the author of a tell-all book.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Thursday that magistrates of the Vatican “might have authorized some wiretaps or some checks,” but nothing on a significant scale.
Vatican watchers say the wiretapping was a shocking breach of trust and an indication of the high levels of distrust since the leaks scandal. But Father Lombardi dismissed that. The idea of “an investigation that creates an atmosphere of fear of mistrust that will now affect the conclave has no foundation in reality,” he said.
Earlier this week, he said that the pope decided that a dossier on the leaks affair compiled by three cardinals would be shown only to the cardinals entering the conclave.
Source: New York Times