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Book fuels further Vatican revelations

Gianluigi Nuzzi reveals slew of secrets including those involving Church in China

Book fuels further Vatican revelations
Gianluigi Nuzzi (Photo: Courtesy International Journalism Festival/flickr)
Alessandro Speciale, Vatican City
Vatican City

May 29, 2012

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An elderly Chinese bishop received 1,000,000 RMB (US$157,575) to accept recognition from the Chinese government and to open the doors to the Beijing-sanctioned Patriotic Association in his diocese. Another bishop, from a diocese in Hebei province, received 600,000 RMB to attend an illicit ordination, on top of a monthly stipend ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 RMB. And the rewards for bowing to the government's demands are not restricted to the bishops. Priests and nuns in the dioceses saw the sum they receive every month from the government double from 300 RMB to 600 RMB. These details, and many others, are to be found in a confidential report by the unofficial Vatican diplomatic representative in Hong Kong, Croatian priest Ante Jozi?, sent in July 2011 to the then prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Ivan Dias. The document is one of several secret Vatican papers published by Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi in a recent book that has sparked uproar in the usually quiet Vatican halls. The book, Sua Santità, is the latest, and by far the largest, episode in a long sequence of leaked Vatican documents that have been appearing regularly in the Italian press for the last few months. The documents, whose authenticity has never been denied by the Vatican, have detailed how a former number two of the Vatican City administration desperately appealed to the pope to avoid being “promoted”to a prestigious diplomatic post in order to continue his anti-corruption drive within the Vatican. They also detail how the efforts to enter the Holy See into a list of financially transparent countries have divided cardinals between those who want to go ahead in aligning to international standards and those who want to preserve at least parts of the city-state’s prized “uniqueness.” The so-called "Vatileaks" scandal reached a climax at the end of last week. First, in an unprecedented move, the board of the controversial Vatican Bank, the Institute for Works of Religion, unceremoniously sacked its own president, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi. The official reason was for failing to carry out the “basic duties” of his job, but according to the Vatican rumor mill, he is suspected of being at least one of the sources of the recent Vatican leaks. In fact, one of the bank’s board members, American Carl A. Anderson, head of the powerful conservative lay movement Knights of Columbus, wrote in a memo to Gotti Tedeschi himself, and which was later published by the Italian daily newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, that the president was also dismissed for failing to “provide any formal explanation for the dissemination of documents last known to be” in his possession. Then, in a rather classic twist to the saga, the Vatican revealed that the pope's “chamber assistant,” or personal valet, had been arrested after being found in possession of “private documents.” Paolo Gabriele, one of the few laymen to have Vatican citizenship, is now in custody in a room adjoining the Vatican's gendarmes barracks and has told judges he is ready to “fully cooperate” with the investigation. These turn of events at the Vatican might surprise those who are accustomed to the slow pace and hushed tones of the Holy See's centuries-old bureaucracy. But in fact, the irritation and anger about the leaks, which have further weakened the image of a church already tarnished by allegations of widespread sexual abuse, had long been burning. Vatican spokesman, Reverend Federico Lombardi, has announced twice that the Holy See will work to bring to justice those who have been responsible for such a “criminal act.” Journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi characterized the Vatican's response as “obscurantist” and replied that an institution which has often been mired in scandals in recent decades shouldn't try to take the moral high ground in this matter. In fact, even if an alleged “culprit” has been found by the Vatican, few believe that the Vatileaks scandal is actually over. Those who are familiar with the papal apartment, the staff that work in close contact with the pope, of whom Gabriele was a member, note that he is an unlikely mastermind for an operation that has been rocking the world's oldest institution for months. Some analysts point to the thinly-disguised animosity between the current secretary of state, the sometimes loose-tongued and gaffe-prone Salesian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, and the old school of Vatican diplomats who, until Pope Benedict XVI, had usually held the levers of power at the Vatican. Others say the root of the struggle is to be found in the tensions sparked by the effort to bring financial transparency to the Vatican, or in the anger provoked by Cardinal Bertone's attempt to impose his will in areas that are considered outside his remit, taking advantage of the pope's lack of interest in the mechanics of power. Those who support these opinions, or the many others that currently circulate in the Vatican, will find in Nuzzi's book plenty of documents in favor of their conjectures. But the leaked documents also shed some light on the daily routine of a global institution that spans five continents. In Jozi?'s memo from July 2011, the Vatican diplomat offers a vivid portrait of the “new course” set by the Chinese government towards the Catholic Church, including a list of priests being groomed as future illicit bishops, and tries to propose some countermeasures. “The Church is suffering more than ever on account of those recent events and needs to find support and consolation in Peter's See... Many think that the Holy See only speaks to punish the errants, and runs the risk of forgetting all those who strenuously suffer and resist for their fidelity to the Church of Christ,” the memo states.
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