Report of Plot to Kill the Pope

A heavy wet snow falls on the Vatican, Friday, February 10, 2012. Freeze Frame of APTN video shot by Paolo Santalucia

A heavy, wet snow fell over the Vatican Friday night creating a deep sense of gloom and doom around the small city-state following a shocking front page story Friday morning revealing a plot to kill the Pope.  The news story was the culmination of what appears to be vicious infighting behind Vatican walls.

The Italian daily “Il Fatto Quotidiano” headline read “Plot to Kill the Pope, Within 12 Months He Will Die.” The newspaper then had four full pages describing a bizarre series of events that did not exactly seem to add up to a plot to kill the Pope.

In the mysterious world of the Vatican, back-stabbing, plotting and conspiring, especially in the final years of a papacy, is not new. But the level the intrigues have reached over the past few weeks have left the most cynical heads spinning.

The “Fatto Quotidiano” article explained that the Cardinal from Palermo, Sicily, Archbishop Paolo Romeo went on a whirlwind five-day private visit to China and came back to declare that the Pope would die within the year and Benedict XVI himself was grooming the Cardinal of Milan, Angelo Scola, to be his replacement. This message was given to a retired Colombian Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos, who had a letter delivered to the Pope in German explaining the alleged plot.

The Pope’s spokesman immediately issued a statement declaring that it was all “so completely beyond reality and hardly serious that I don’t even want to consider it.”

Vatican analysts have rushed to agree that the idea of a plot to kill the Pope is not serious, but the Vaticanisti (journalist dedicated to covering the Vatican) agree that behind the Vatican walls, the knives are out and they are long and sharp. A power struggle is underway at the Vatican and at the center of the struggle appears to be the No. 2 figure at the Vatican, the Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone.

The assassination plot report comes one week after an Italian TV show revealed that the Bishop who had been effectively running the Vatican city state was been sent off to Washington to be the Pope’s Ambassador there to get him out of the way. The TV show revealed letters from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’ to the Pope complaining of the transfer indicating that he had been pushed aside after discovering corruption in the awarding of Vatican contracts and attempting to clean it up.

There have been other revelations regarding the Vatican Bank, IOR, (Institute for Religious Works) and reports of millions of euros being transferred to a bank in Germany to avoid new checks by the Bank of Italy. The Vatican has been trying to improve the transparency of its financial institutions and transactions in order to get onto the OECD’s (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) “White List” of nations that comply with global norms on transparency.

Intrigues at the Vatican are not new, what is surprising to people in Rome, is how it has spilled out with gossip, dirt and ugly revelations in the press.

APTN's Pietro De Cristofaro modelling a Cardinal's outfit for feature on preparations for Consistory. Cameraman Gianfranco Stara filming. Photo by Trisha Thomas

On February 18, Cardinals from all over the world are to descend on Rome for a Consistory during which 22 men will be made Cardinals in an elaborate ceremony in which Pope Benedict XVI will place a new red Cardinal’s berretta on their head and each one will receive a new Cardinal’s ring.

Benedict XVI is 84-years-old and in apparently good health. He is feeling strong enough that he is planning a trip this spring to Mexico and Cuba, but nonetheless, others are thinking about who will succeed him and there will be plenty of discrete, Cardinal-style campaigning going on during February’s Consistory.

When the Cardinals arrive from abroad this coming week, they will find the highest officials at the Vatican engaged in a brutal battle, and unable to focus on the massive challenges that the Catholic Church faces around the globe.

The scandals would make good material for a movie – they’ve managed to net a Cardinal from Sicily, a secretive mission to China, an Ambassador to Washington, and Cardinals from Colombia and Milan, all that with a fragile, intellectual Pope holed up in a Vatican under a blanket of snow.

Trisha Thomas
Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.

10 Comments

  1. Tiffany at The Pines of Rome
    2012/02/12

    Fascinating! Thank you for this post so I don’t have to muddle through it in Italian in the paper! I find these Vatican scandals so intriguing! And did I mention I adore your blog? Thanks so much!

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2012/02/12

      Thank you! I need to continue to try to muddle through it because I have to cover the Consistory next weekend. It is pretty amazing. I am pleased to hear you like my blog– some days between work and kids I just have trouble putting one foot in front of the other and getting it done. Recently I have found that I am most efficient at writing my blog posts sitting in the bleachers by the swimming pool at Pietralata during my son’s evening waterpolo practices. Somehow at that hour (7-9pm) the whole world leaves me alone, so I breathe in deep the chlorine air and blog away!!

      Reply
  2. Alan
    2012/02/12

    . . thought it already had been made into a movie or two! Money, Power, Politics is the ever-present thread through the story.

    Reply
  3. AdriBarr
    2012/02/13

    Wow! What a story. A screenwriter’s dream, especially the Sicilian connection. Stories of Vatican intrigue are always particularly compelling, but I had no idea things had progressed to such extremes. Thank you for the enlightenment.

    The reports of particularly harsh weather prompt me to ask – how is Bunny Lady?

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2012/02/13

      Indeed, a screen-writer’s dream. See my response to Barbara Landi above.

      On the Bunny Lady, I am glad you asked, my father also suggested a follow up. I have seen her twice through the window of the bus — today and last week. She is bundled up with all sorts of coats and jackets and seems to have her bunny box equally well-covered. She disappears overnight and then is back in the afternoons when the sun hits her spot at the edge of the park. She must be going to some shelter.
      I visited a slum on the outskirts of Rome on Friday where lots of illegal immigrants are living (Ponte Mammolo) and found them struggling to cope with the snow and cold in tiny, unheated shacks with mud floors — Eritreans, Bengalis, Slovenians. These are smart people, eager for work and determined to improve their situations. It was sad to see them in living in such squalid conditions but seeing their determination was encouraging. Unlike the Bunny Lady, these people are happy to accept constructive help from others, and eager to help pull themselves out of their current condition. I was with someone from the Catholic Group Sant’Egidio who was handing out sleeping bags and blankets which they were grateful to receive. I need to do a post on them too!
      So many posts to write and so little time. I always love reading yours! Blog readers, check out Adri’s awesome post on World Nutella Day! http://thefrontburner.us/main/2012/02/05/world-nutella-day-february-5-2012/

      Reply
      • AdriBarr
        2012/02/17

        Well, I am pleased to get an update on Bunny Lady. What a life. Interestingly here in Los Angeles, and elsewhere I imagine, our homeless do not sleep at night. I never thought of it, but a friend who works with them explained that theft is rampant among their ranks, and particularly bad in the dark hours. Thus if theycan not gain entrance to a shelter, or just choose not to go, they remain awake through the dark hours to keep watch over their belongings. This at least partially explains why I see somany of them slepeing during the daylight hours. How little I understand of their existence.

        It must be hard to see the immigrants. I hope that with their will to work and desire to improve their condition they are able to turn their lives around. I can not even imagine. IT was awfully kind of you to help.

        And thank you so much for the kind words about my blog.. What a pleasant surprise! And how very kind of you.. Wow.

        And I saw your reader’s mention of Amanda Knox. Did you hear the news? Ms. Knox has signed a book deal with HarperCollins for 4 million U.S. Dollars. I kid you not. Check out the NPR piece.

        http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/02/16/146995485/amanda-knox-signs-book-deal-worth-millions

        Reply
        • Trisha Thomas
          Trisha Thomas
          2012/02/17

          Hi Adri — Yes, I definitely did hear about Amanda’s book deal. 4 Million dollars is a helluva lot of money. I feel sorry for Meredith Kercher’s family. They lost a daughter and sister and they still believe that Amanda was involved so hearing this news must be painful for them. Amanda is a very smart young woman and I hope she writes a good book — obviously she will be working with a ghost writer, but I have heard she wants to do most of it herself. Thanks for the NPR link, I will listen to it.

          Reply
          • AdrBarr
            2012/02/17

            Quite a saga for Amanda Knox. You are right About Meredith Kercher’s family. Their child is forever gone, and they are certain her murderers walk free. What agony. And I wonder if there will not be another contract for the TV movie???

  4. Barbara Landi
    2012/02/13

    I think the Italians cannot live senza uno scandolo. With Amanda Knox safely back in Seattle, it must be terribly boring reading the papers & watching the news. I guess even Schettino & the cruise ship is old news.

    Reply
    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas
      2012/02/13

      Barbara, you are right! I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. First, we had Titanic II with a crazy ship captain, and now the Cardinals have pulled out the knives at the Vatican. It’a a novelist’s dream come true. Maybe I should give up on trying to get my Mamma Memoirs published and write an adventure story or a murder mystery! By the way, have you ever read Luigi Barzini’s excellent book, “The Italians”? I have been dipping in and out of it and it helps explain a lot of the Italian cultural habits like the need for a “spectacle” and the “bella figura.”

      Reply

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