As the man charged with cleaning out the stables at the scandal-struck Vatican bank, Monsignor Battista Ricca will need Machiavellian cunning, good fortune and a whiter-than-white record to have even a fighting chance.
But Pope Francis’s new banker appears to possess none of these attributes after it was reported yesterday that he was found stuck in a lift with a rent boy. Msgr Ricca, as Francis’s new primate with responsibility for the troubled financial institution, known officially as the IoR (Institute for Religious Works), is supposed to usher in new transparency and badly needed reforms after years of financial scandal.
Earlier this month, a major report from finance police and magistrates warned that a lack of checks and controls by the IoR and the Italian financial institutions it had dealings with made the Vatican’s bank a money-laundering hot spot.
It is claimed that Msgr Ricca, 57, impressed Francis with the way he ran three key residences used by cardinals, bishops and priests visiting Rome. But detailed claims have emerged detailing how in 1999, Ricca took a Vatican diplomatic posting in Uruguay and moved his lover, Patrick Haari, a Swiss army captain, in with him, to the outrage of church figures and locals in the conservative South American nation. Captain Haari was forced out by the hardline Polish nuncio Janusz Bolonek in 2001.
But there were more problems for Ricca when he was attacked in a cruising ground that year, and soon after firemen had to rescue him from a broken lift, in which he was trapped with a youth known by local police. The weekly news magazine L’Espresso claims that Msgr Ricca was able to get the position as IoR prelate because the supposedly powerful “gay lobby” in the Vatican airbrushed his colourful CV.
Gay sex scandals at the Vatican have made the headlines before. In 2010 it emerged that one of Pope Benedict’s ceremonial ushers and a member of the Vatican choir were involved in a gay prostitution ring.
Vatican spokesman Padre Federico Lombardi sought to dismiss the claims about Msgr Ricca’s private life. “What has been claimed about Msgr Ricca is not credible,” he said. Msgr Ricca himself has not yet responded to the allegations. But La Repubblica noted that the Vatican had emphasised that his appointment as prelate for the IoR was technically an interim one, thus raising the possibility that the job might not last long.
The latest scandal is less grisly, but equally bizarre. On July 1st the IOR’s director, Paolo Cipriani, and his deputy, Massimo Tulli, resigned three days after the Italian authorities arrested and jailed aVatican cleric, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano. He …
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VATICAN CITY — The Vatican posted a 2.2 million euro ($2.85 million) budget surplus for 2012, an improvement from the previous year and some good news as it struggles to cope with a scandalinvolving its embattled bank. In its annual financial …
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… and deposition testimony from Cardinal and Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan, who during his time of Milwaukee’s archbishop between 2002 and 2009 appealed to the the Vatican on numerous occasions to help address the fallout from the scandal.
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Vatican financial watchdog now part of network
Malta Independent Online
Nonetheless, the Vatican is reeling under a spate of scandals, including one in which a Vaticanaccountant is jailed in Rome while prosecutors probe an alleged plot to smuggle 20 million euros ($26 million) in cash in a private plane from Switzerland …
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The findings are sure to pile further pressure on the ailing religious organisation, just days after their Chief Executive resigned citing ‘personal reasons’ and ‘being a bit old’.
The news will concern billions of Catholic consumers, previously led to believe they were consuming Christ himself each Sunday morning.
Catholic Simon Williams told us, “So what have I been eating all these years? It’s not bloody horse is it?”
“With the amount of cash I’m encouraged to put in the collection plate I can’t believe they’re scrimping on the ingredients.”
“You’ll be telling me next that the stuff they dip the wafer in isn’t actually blood.”
A spokesperson for the Vatican explained that the DNA test results merely highlight the incompatibility of science and religion.
They told us, “Where is your faith that the wafer is the body of Christ? Science can’t tell you everything, and just as it can’t prove God doesn’t exist, it can’t prove the wafer ISN’T the body of Christ.”
“Oh, it has? Right. Well, there’s probably something in the Bible about that. I’ll have to go and look.”
The Pope said it would be ‘interesting to work with so many homosexuals’
Joseph Ratzinger handed in his 30 days’ notice to God, telling a surprised deity that he would be taking up a key role with His arch-rival.
He said: “Poping has been great fun and over the last eight years I have met a lot very strange people with some fascinating secrets.
“This isn’t about money, it’s about the creative challenge. I’ll be using my understanding of dogma to create a manifesto for a great new sin-based brand.
“Satan runs a fun, hip organisation – he’s like the Google of worship. There’ll be chilled out brainstorming sessions and loads of muffins.
“Also, I hate hymns, so it’ll be great to organise services where we listen to Cradle of Filth.
“And it will be nice to finally work for a company where I can say, ‘yeah, we’re supposed to do stuff like that’.”
He added: “Thanks to all the priests and nuns, I hope we stay in touch. Thanks to God – I couldn’t have done it without You. And of course, thanks to Tony and Cherie – you guys are mental!”
Satan said: “The Hitler Youth and the Vatican. I should be working for him.”
The Vatican today stunned the world by declaring the European Union to be a saint, effectively immediately.
Vatican spokesman Hermann Sisler declared: “More than any individual person in recent history, living or dead, the European Union has spread the message of peace, hope, and charity through the world. And besides, they really need the money.”
For the first time ever, the EU’s sainthood also comes with a 10 million euro prize.
“Saint EU” is the first international organization to advance to sainthood. The Church waived the rule that prevents the process of canonization from beginning until five years after a candidate’s death.
The EU is not technically dead yet, according to most political experts.
The surprise announcement comes soon after the European Union being named for the Nobel Peace Prize.
“We are proud to officially declare the European Union to be a saint,” Sisler continued. “With its size and potential for good will, Saint EU dwarfs the power of any one person, such as Mother Theresa, to do good deeds.”
“In the modern world, international organizations alone possess the power, connections and resources to undertake meaningful projects for the common good of humanity. Compared to that, individuals just can’t make a real difference in our globalized world.”
But Sisler denied rumors that the IMF and the World Bank were also being considered for sainthood.
“Not at this time. But the UN and WTO are serious candidates for the near future,” stated Sisler.
EU critics thought the award ridiculous.
Nigel Herring of the UK stated: “This is crazy. Just like the EU Nobel Peace Prize. Sainthood is supposed to go to individuals. Dead people. The European Union is not only not a person; it’s not even a country.”
“And it’s not really the case that EU has somehow kept the peace in Western Europe since World War II. It’s really been NATO. With American troops on the ground in Germany, the Germans have not been able to invade France or partition Poland for a fifth time or whatever. (Though the “Ode to Joy,” the EU national anthem, seems like suitable music for such undertakings.)”
“And those expansionist Belgians have been kept in check as well, except for the fact that they somehow ended up with the capital city of Europe. Very suspicious.”
“But in the end, the EU’s attempts to keep the euro going may prove to be quite divisive. I fear how the end game for the euro could play out,” said Herring.
“It might have made sense to give the prize to the European Coal and Steel Community in the 1950s for tying these economies together after the war, but the EU has inherited a situation conducive to peace in Western Europe. It’s not like there were wars that the EU prevented,” concluded Herring.
Vatican spokesman Sisler concluded: “We have long believed that the twelve stars on Saint EU’s flag represent a halo as seen from above. Now our belief has been realized.”
The day after Benedict’s latest book “The Infancy Narratives – Jesus of Nazareth” – was published on November 20, Vatican officials found some headlines they were not expecting.
“Killjoy pope crushes Christmas nativity traditions,” read one tabloid headline, claiming that Benedict had snubbed traditions such as animals in nativity scenes and caroling.
“Pope sets out to debunk Christmas myths,” ran another.
Holy Scrooge! Some blogs unceremoniously branded Benedict the new Grinch that stole Christmas and one rocketed him to the “top of the grumpy list for 2012.”
And then there was this zinger headline from a web news site: “Pope bans Christmas”.
Coming little more than a month before Christmas, it was the last thing the Vatican needed – another image problem for the pope.
Alarmed by some of the headlines, the Catholic social network XT3 felt compelled to run a blog that dissected the media’s coverage of the book.
It was headlined: “The pope has not banned Christmas”.
So what was all the fuss about?
In the 137-page book, the pope states a fact: that in the gospels there is “no reference” to the presence of animals in the stable – actually, it was probably a cave – where Jesus was born.
Bloggers had a feast with that, with one calling it “Bombshell number one”.
What some neglected was that just a few sentences down, the pope states that even today, “No representation of the crib is complete without the ox and the ass”.
He explains: The tradition of the ass and ox came from reflecting on parts of the Old and New Testaments. Christian iconography then adopted the motif early in Church history to show that even animals knew Jesus was the son of God.
KEEP ON CAROLLING
In other words, the tradition that has developed over the centuries matters more than an unverifiable fact, at least as far as the case of the ox and ass in the stable is concerned.
“I think that what people need to realize here is that the pope is trying to be as historical as he can be,” said Father Robert Dodaro, professor of patristics, or the study of early Church writings, at Rome’s Patristic Institute.
“He wants to see the biblical narratives as history where possible but he is also trying to explain details in the narratives that cannot be historically verified,” he said.
Some bloggers, taking their cue from television and website headlines, even wrote that the pope had spoken out against Christmas carols.
In the book, the opposite was true.
Benedict says the evangelist Luke wrote that at the moment of Jesus’ birth the angels “said” the well-known phrase “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased”.
But in the next line he explains that “Christianity has always understood that the speech of angels is actually song”, that “the angels’ song of praise has never gone silent”, and that it is “only natural that simple believers (even today) join in their caroling on the Holy Night”.
So, no need to cancel any school performances.
Another section of the book that irked some bloggers is where the pope restates what biblical scholars have known for decades, if not centuries – that Jesus was born several years earlier than the first century AD.
Benedict writes that since King Herod died in 4 BC, Jesus was probably born “a few years earlier”. He attributes the erroneous fixing of the year of Jesus’ birth to a miscalculation by the monk Dionysius Exiguous some 500 years later.
“No one’s faith should be shaken by this book,” said Dodaro. “On the contrary, it should be fortified by this account. This is a believable account of the birth of Christ,” he said.
And in St Peter’s Square, workmen have started building the Vatican’s larger than life nativity scene, which is expected to have animals and singing angels.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella)