Pope Benedict is said to be “saddened” by the discovery that one of his closest aides, Paolo Gabriele, 46, his valet or butler, has betrayed his trust, copying and disseminating secret Vatican documents from the Pope’s own apartments.
Some in Rome are concerned that the emotional strain of these events could harm the health of the Pope, who is now 85.
And there is even a steady flow of voices now in the press asking whether the pontiff should not perhaps seriously consider resigning. A front-page headline from the German tabloid Bild made this suggestion this morning. Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli has taken the voices seriously enough to write on his VaticanInsider website that the Pope is the last person in the Vatican who should consider resigning at the present moment. “Yesterday, in his column in Il Giornale, the journalist Giuliano Ferrara expounded his dream once more. He said he wished the Pope would resign, in order to send a strong message to the rest of the Church. It would be a jolt of such proportion that the Pope would be able to influence his succession. In the past months I already expressed all my doubts regarding Ferrara’s proposal. Today I just want to add that Benedict XVI is the last person who ought to resign in the Vatican at the moment.”
Even after a second Vatican press briefing in two days by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, S.J. on the “Vatileaks” affair, there continue to be more questions than answers in this strange case.
Gabriele is still under arrest inside the Vatican. He will face his first round of formal preliminary questioning by Vatican judges “later this week or early next week,” Lombardi said today.
The spokesman confirmed that an unspecified number of other individuals also had been questioned by Vatican police recently, a process that could be expected to continue, but no one else had been charged or arrested.
“The Pope is informed about everything and can’t help but be saddened, however, he remains serene” concerning the latest crisis, Lombardi told journalists.
Gabriele, the dark-haired assistant often pictured sitting in the front seat of the popemobile next to the driver, was arrested the evening of May 23 by Vatican police after private Vatican documents were found in his home near the Vatican’s St. Anne’s Gate.
Lombardi said today that in the next few days Piero Antonio Bonnet, a Vatican magistrate, would begin the second stage of the formal inquiry, questioning Gabriele in the presence of his two lawyers and Nicola Picardi, another Vatican magistrate, who conducted the preliminary investigation.
Father Lombardi said the investigation would continue until enough evidence has been collected and then Bonnet would either call Gabriele to stand trial or would acquit him, Father Lombardi said.
Dozens of private letters to Pope Benedict and other confidential Vatican correspondence and reports, including encrypted cables from Vatican embassies around the world, were leaked to an Italian journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi. He published the documents in a book, His Holiness: The Secret Documents of Benedict XVI, which was released May 17.
In the book’s introduction, Nuzzi said the main source for the texts told him he was acting with a “small group” of Vatican insiders concerned about corruption within the Vatican.
So what do we know?
Our knowledge is very fragmentary.
We know that dozens of authentic documents, perhaps hundreds, perhaps even thousands — no exact figure has been given — have been “leaked” from the Vatican.
We know that several dozen were published in Nuzzi’s book, and that more may soon appear in a new book Nuzzi has said he is completing.
And we know that these publications have served to focus the world’s attention on the Vatican, with people everywhere, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, wondering “what is going on in the Vatican?”
In order to help answer that question, the Vatican’s own newspaper today for the first time addressed the case, publishing an interview with the man who is arguably the #3 man in the Curia, Archbishop Angelo Becciu. Becciu is the “Sostituto” or Deputy Secretary of State under Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Secretary of State who has been attacked in recent days in the Italian press for his alleged mismanagement of the Curia.
The main point of the interview is that these leaks have shaken Pope deeply, but that he continues to be “determined” in his leadership of the Church.
Here is the complete text of the interview.
A conversation with Archbishop Angelo Becciu, Substitute of the Secretariat of State
From the Osservatore Romano, May 30, 2012
The papers stolen from the Pope
Bitterness and sorrow at what has happened in the past few days in the Vatican but also determination and trust in coping with a situation which, quite frankly, is difficult. These are the sentiments that can be perceived in the Substitute of the Secretariat of State – Archbishop Angelo Becciu, who, because of his office, works every day in close contact with the Pope – in an interview with L’Osservatore Romano on the subject that is attracting the attention of vast numbers of the media across the world: the arrest, last 23 May, of Paolo Gabriele, Benedict XVI’s aiutante di camera (“gentleman of the chamber”), for having been found in possession of a large number of private documents belonging to the Pope.
What can be said of the state of mind of those who work in the Holy See?
Archbishop Becciu: With the people I have met in the past few hours, we looked each other in the eye and I saw dismay and anxiety, but I also noted the determination to continue the silent and faithful service to the Pope.
This is an attitude breathed every day in the life of the Holy See’s offices and in the small Vatican world, but which obviously does not make news in the media storm unleashed after the serious and, in many ways, disconcerting events of the past few days.
In this context, the Substitute weighs his words carefully to emphasize “the positive outcome” of the investigation, even though the outcome was regrettable. Reactions across the world, moreover, on the one hand justified, on the other “are worrying and disconcerting because of the manner of the information which has given rise to speculation that has nothing whatsoever to do with reality.”
Would it have been possible to give a quicker and fuller response?
Becciu: There has been, there is and there will be strict respect for the individuals and procedures, as prescribed by the Vatican laws. As soon as the event had been ascertained, on 25 May the Holy See Press Office disseminated the news, although it came as a shock to all and is causing some dismay. Moreover, the investigation continues.
How did you find Benedict XVI?
Becciu: Saddened. Because, given what it has been possible to find out so far, someone close to him seems to be responsible for conduct that is unjustifiable from every point of view. Of course, sorrow for the person involved is what the Pope feels most deeply. Yet the fact remains that he suffered a brutal act: Benedict XVI saw published papers stolen from his house, letters that were not merely private correspondence but indeed information, reflections, expressions of conscience and even outbursts which he only received by virtue of his ministry. For this reason the Pontiff is particularly sorrowful and also because of the violence suffered by those who wrote these letters or writings addressed to him.
Can you express an opinion on what happened?
Becciu: I consider the publication of the stolen letters an immoral act of unheard of gravity. Above all, I repeat, because it was not only a violation, already very serious in itself, of the confidentiality to which anyone would be entitled, as rather a vile offence to the relationship of trust between Benedict XVI and anyone who turns to him even to express, in conscience, protests. Let us reason: the Pope was not merely robbed of letters. Violence has been done to the consciences of those who turn to him as Vicar of Christ, an assault has been made on the ministry of the Successor of the Apostle Peter. In many of the documents published we find ourselves in a context we presume to be of total trust. When a Catholic speaks to the Roman Pontiff, he is duty bound to open himself as if he were before God, partly because he feels that he is guaranteed absolute confidentiality.
There was a desire to justify the publication of the documents on the basis of criteria for the Church’s cleanliness, transparency and reform.
Becciu: Sophisms do not go very far. My parents not only taught me not to steal but also never to accept stolen goods from others. To me these seem to me to be simple principles – perhaps to some people too simple – but it is certain that someone who loses sight of them, easily loses him- or herself and also brings others to ruin. There can be no renewal that tramples on the moral law, even on the basis of the principle that the end justifies the means, a principle which, among other things, is not Christian.
And what answer should be given to those who claim the right to give an account of something?
Becciu: I think in these days, on the part of journalists, that in addition to their duty to explain what is happening, there should be an ethical shock, namely, the courage to take a clear step back from the initiative of a colleague whom I do not hesitate to call criminal. “The truth will set you free”: this is the transparency that does good not only to the Church but also to the world of information.
According to various comments, the papers published reveal a murky world within the Church and in particular within the Holy See.
Becciu: Behind certain articles I seem to see an underlying hypocrisy. On the one hand the central government of the Church is accused of being absolutist and monarchical, and on the other, people are scandalized because a few write to the Pope expressing ideas or even complaints about the organization of this same government. Many documents published do not reveal conflicts or revenge but rather the freedom of thought which, on the contrary, the Church is accused of not permitting. In short, we are not mummies; rather, different viewpoints or even contrasting evaluations are normal. If someone feels misunderstood he has every right to turn to the Pope. What is shocking about this? Obedience does not mean renouncing the right to have an opinion of one’s own, but expressing one’s opinions sincerely and fully, in order to adapt to the superior’s decision. And not out of calculation but out of adherence to the Church that Christ desired. These are fundamental elements of the Catholic viewpoint.
Struggles, poisons, suspicions: is the Vatican really like this?
Becciu: I do not perceive this milieu and it is regrettable that the Vatican should have such a distorted image. But it must be food for thought and stimulate all of us to do our utmost to make a life on which the Gospel has left a deeper impression shine out.
In a word, what can be said to Catholics and to those who are nonetheless looking at the Church with interest?
Becciu: I have spoken of Benedict XVI’s sorrow but I must say that the Pope is not lacking in the serenity that leads him to govern the Church with determination and clear-sightedness. The World Meeting of Families is about to open in Milan. These will be days of festivity where it will be possible to breath the joy of being Church. Let us make our own the Gospel parable of which Benedict XVI reminded us a few days ago: the wind blows and beats against the house but it will not collapse. The Lord sustains it and no storms will be able to demolish it.
The Pope more than a month ago named three cardinals to lead a special investigation of the “Vatikeaks” affair: Julian Herranz, Jozef Tomko, and Salvatore De Giorgi.
Some observers say the Pope constituted this commission so that other cardinals in the Curia could be interviewed by them.
The first meeting of the three was on April 24, just over one month ago.
Here are brief biographies of the three men who are among those the Pope seems to trust most in the Vatican today.
Julián Herranz Casado (born 31 March 1930) is Spanish. He served as president of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts in the Roman Curia from 1994 to 2007, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 2003.
One of two cardinals—along with Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne—who belongs to Opus Dei, Herranz Casado is the organisation’s highest-ranking member in the Church’s hierarchy. He is also considered one of the foremost experts in canon law, and to have been one of the Vatican’s most influential figures during the period shortly before the death of Pope John Paul II.
Born in Baena in the Province of Córdoba, Spain, Herranz Casado joined Opus Dei in 1949. He was ordained as a priest of Opus Dei on 7 August 1955 after obtaining doctorates in medicine from the Universities of Barcelona and Navarra and in canon law from the Angelicum in Rome. He taught canon law at the University of Navarra and travelled worldwide on behalf of Opus Dei until 1960, when he began to work for the Roman Curia.
During the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), Herranz Casado served as an assistant of study on the commissions for discipline of clergy and the Christian people. In 1983, he was appointed secretary for the Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law.
Herranz Casado received his episcopal consecration on 6 January 1991 from John Paul II himself, with Archbishops Giovanni Battista Re and Justin Francis Rigali serving as co-consecrators, in St. Peter’s Basilica.
On 9 December 1994, he was named President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts for the Roman Curia, a position in which he was responsible for advising the Pope on matters of Church law.
According to Vatican journalist Sandro Magister, by the end of 2004, Herranz Casado was “constantly gaining influence” in the internal affairs of the Vatican. Along with Joseph Ratzinger, Angelo Sodano, and the Pope’s private secretary, Archbishop Stanis?aw Dziwisz, Herranz Casado is believed to have been largely responsible for leading the Curia at times when the Pope was incapacitated by illness. Herranz finds conspiracy theories about Opus Dei particularly offensive, claiming that it has “no hidden agenda; the only policy is the message of Christ.”
He was one of the cardinal electors in the 2005 papal conclave yet was not generally considered a strong candidate for the papacy himself; instead, he was described as a highly influential insider, potentially playing the role of a “kingmaker” at the conclave. It has been reported that, both before and after Pope John Paul’s death, Herranz convened meetings of cardinals at a villa in Grottarossa, a suburb of Rome.
Pope Benedict XVI accepted Herranz’s resignation as President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts on February 15, 2007, after 12 years of service.
Jozef Tomko was born on March 11, 1924. He served as Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples from 1985 to 2001, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1985.
Tomko was born in Udavské, near Humenné, in Czechoslovakia (now part of the Republic of Slovakia). He studied at the Theological Faculty of Bratislava, and then traveled to Rome to study at the Pontifical Lateran Athenaeum and Pontifical Gregorian University, from where he obtained his doctorates in theology, canon law, and social sciences. Tomko was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Luigi Traglia on March 12, 1949.
From 1950 to 1965, he served as vice-rector and later rector of the Pontifical Nepomucenum College. He taught at the International University Pro Deo from 1955 to 1956 as well.
Tomko entered the service of the Roman Curia in 1962, as an adjunct in the Book Censorship Section of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He was named Undersecretary of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops in 1974.
He received his episcopal consecration on September 15, 1979, from John Paul II, with Archbishop Eduardo Martínez Somalo and Bishop Andrew Gregory Grutka serving as co-consecrators. Tomko was later named Pro-Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples on April 24, 1985.
John Paul II created him Cardinal the consistory of May 25, 1985. On the following May 27, Tomko rose to become full Prefect of the Congregation (an office once known as the “Red Pope” for its influence) and thus Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical Urbaniana University. During his tenure, Tomko became a close confidant of Pope John Paul, and served as a special papal envoy to several religious celebrations and events to an array of different countries.
Tomko was appointed President of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses on October 23, 2001, ending his 16-year-long tenure as Prefect of Evangelization of Peoples. He lost the right to participate in any future papal conclaves upon reaching the age of 80 on 11 March 2004.
Salvatore De Giorgi (born 6 September 1930) is Archbishop Emeritus of Palermo in Sicily.
He was born in Vernole, in Apulia (Southern Italy). He was ordained as a priest in 1953 and became a bishop in 1973. From 1987 to 1990, he served as archbishop of Taranto. In 1990, he was appointed General Chaplain of Italian Catholic Action. He was named archbishop of Palermo in 1996. At the same time, he was also elected President of the Sicilian Episcopal Conference.
De Giorgi was proclaimed a Cardinal in 1998 and was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI.
He retired as Archbishop of Palermo on 19 December 2006, and was replaced by Archbishop Paolo Romeo, who had been apostolic nuncio to Italy and San Marino.
Cardinal De Giorgi is noted as a writer and journalist. He has been the author of several religious publications.