Domenica, 21 Ottobre 2018
VATICAN CITY

Pope points out 'Church divisions' in last public Mass

English
© ANSA

Vatican City, February 13 - At his final public
Mass as pope, Benedict XVI on Ash Wednesday drew attention to
divisions in the Church body that some Vatican watchers claim
compelled him to call an end to his pontificate this week.
"The Church is sometimes faced with divisions in the church
body," he said during a service that was moved to St Peter's to
accomodate a large influx of people.
The pontiff called on the faithful to overcome
"individualism and rivalries" as a "humble and precious sign to
those who are far from the faith".
To listeners, his words seemed beyond the Church's crisis
of dwindling numbers in the developed world.
After the pope cited advancing age and declining health in
his resignation announcement Monday, many have speculated that
the pressures surrounding a raft of scandals within the Vatican
were behind his decision to step down, becoming the first
pontiff to do so since Celestine V in the 13th century.
Those scandals culminated last year with the conviction of
Paolo Gabriele, the pope's ex-butler, who was found guilty of
taking confidential papal memos suggesting corruption and
intrigue within the Holy See and leaking them to the Italian
press - a betrayal that some Vatican insiders say may have been
too much for the pontiff.
On Wednesday friends of his told ANSA he was "surprised"
but not "amazed" by the pope's decision to resign.
Gabriele, who was pardoned by the pope and is now working
as a clerk at St Paul's hospital in Rome, was not speaking to
reporters this week beyond saying hello to watching cameras.
Friends say that he was aware of renovations at the
monastery Mater Ecclesiae, where the pope will eventually
retire, but assumed they were for a senior cleric.
Gabriele was sentenced to 18 months in jail, but received a
full pardon after he wrote a letter to the pope begging
forgiveness.
Gabriele also said that he was "disappointed" by the Pope's
resignation and that he has "always been very close to the
Pope".
He has told them that he regrets what he did, blaming some
kind of "delirium" that seized him.
But Vatican watchers have long suspected that he was a pawn
in an ongoing power struggle between cardinals eager to assert
their influence, either during this papacy or the next.
Meanwhile Rome is abuzz with preparations for the conclave
to elect his successor, which will begin 15-20 days after he
steps down on February 28, Vatican Spokesman Federico Lombardi
said on Wednesday.
"If all goes well, it will start on March 15," he said.
Cardinals will gather from around the world for the vote,
which follow strict guidelines to ensure it is valid and secret.
Leadership at the Vatican Bank is also set to change within
the next few days, despite the shock created by the pope's
resignation, a spokesman said Wednesday.
The hunt to find a replacement for the head of the
Institute for Religious Works (IOR), the official name of the
Vatican's bank, is continuing successfully, said the Vatican
press office.
"It's likely that in the next days there will be the
appointment of the president of the IOR," Lombardi said. "The
process started a long time ago and I see no reason to stop due
to the resignation of the pope".
The IOR has been without a president since May 2012 when
its Italian head Ettore Gotti Tedeschi resigned, following a
no-confidence vote by the board of directors of the bank.
The job was temporarily filled by Vice-President Ronaldo
Hermann Schmitz.
Vatican experts have speculated that part of the reason
Gotti Tedeschi's split with the bank was over internal tensions
linked to the bank's efforts to get onto an international 'white
list' of countries which are considered to have acceptable
financial transparency laws.
The bank has in the past been linked with numerous scandals
including allegations of money laundering.
And in recent days Gotti Tedeschi has been questioned by
prosecutors investigating suspect operations at the troubled
Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) bank.
The prosecutors wanted to talk to Gotti Tedeschi about
MPS's nine-billion-euro acquisition of smaller bank Antonveneta
in 2008 from Spanish bank Santander, which just a year earlier
had been valued at only six billion euros, raising suspicions of
a slush fund.
Gotti Tedeschi was in charge of Santander's operations in
Italy before becoming president of the IOR in 2009.
Before passing that scandal and others on to his
yet-to-be-named successor, Benedict is planning his final
private audiences as pope with Italy's leaders, who are also in
transition.
On Saturday he plans to meet behind closed doors with
Italy's caretaker premier, followed by the country's outgoing
president on 23, a Vatican spokesperson said on Wednesday.
Monti, who has led a technical government since late 2011,
announced his resignation late last year and is campaigning for
a popular political mandate in parliamentary elections February
24-25.
The Italian head of state, Giorgio Napolitano, will see his
seven-year term come to an end in May.
Earlier Wednesday, Benedict was welcomed by a long, loud
ovation of applause when he entered the Paul VI hall in the
Vatican for his penultimate general audience and his first
public appearance since making his famous announcement Monday.
He waved at the faithful with a big smile and asked them to
keep praying for him when he is no longer the head of the
Catholic Church.
"Continue to pray for me, for the Church, for the future
pope, the Lord will guide us," Benedict said.
He said he made the decision to step down "in full liberty
for the good of the Church, after praying for a long time and
examining my conscience before God, well aware of the
seriousness of this act, but equally aware of no longer being
capable of exercising the Petrine ministry with the strength
that this requires".
He added that the affection of the faithful had helped him
through "these days that have not been easy for me," but that he
regardless "felt love almost tangibly".

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