Saturday 16 December 2017

Pontiff circles wagons after spate of scandals at Vatican

Daimler chief executive, Dieter Zetsche, personally hands over to Pope Benedict the keys to his new Mercedes-Benz car.
Daimler chief executive, Dieter Zetsche, personally hands over to Pope Benedict the keys to his new Mercedes-Benz car.

Carla DeWinters in Rome

POPE Benedict XVI has moved to shore up the papal household in the aftermath of the Vatican's leaks scandal. He also gave his trusted secretary the job of running the office that organises his schedule.

German Monsignor Georg Gaenswein (pictured below) – dubbed 'Gorgeous Georg' by the media – replaces the American prelate James Harvey, who was recently made a cardinal, to take over as papal household prefect.

The prefect arranges the Pope's audiences and other events on his schedule and manages the papal household.

For nearly a decade, Mgr Gaenswein (56) was personal secretary to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – the future Pope Benedict – at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

He continued in that role after the German became pontiff in 2005. The Vatican said Gaenswein would likely remain on as papal secretary, adding the duties of the household prefect to his existing ones.

Cardinal Harvey left the Apostolic Palace under somewhat difficult circumstances. As prefect, he had been the supervisor of Paolo Gabriele, the Pope's former butler, who was convicted in October in a Vatican court of stealing the pontiff's personal papers and leaking them to a journalist – a scandal that convulsed the Vatican all year.

In the trial's aftermath, Cardinal Harvey (63) left the job – promoted to a cardinal but also appointed to a position outside the Vatican as archpriest of one of the Vatican's four basilicas in Rome.

Mgr Gaenswein confronted Gabriele in May when he noticed three letters that had been on his desk ended up in the book, 'His Holiness: The secret papers of Pope Benedict XVI'.

Gabriele initially denied that he had taken them, but later admitted to investigators that he had leaked the documents because he felt the Pope wasn't being informed of the "evil and corruption" around him.

While Mgr Gaenswein's testimony was critical in convicting Gabriele, the former butler also made clear that he had photocopied the documents right under Mgr Gaenswein's nose, since they shared an office right next door to the Pontiff's studio.

Gabriele testified that he used the office photocopier just a few metres away from Mgr Gaenswein's desk to copy the documents that he later handed to Gianluigi Nuzzi, the book's author.

Mgr Gaenswein is often seen at the Pope's side when he is in public, riding along with him in the popemobile on foreign trips and the jeep that he uses to get around St Peter's Square for his general audiences.

Irish Independent

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