Disbelief on streets of Rome as life imitates art
In the Borgo Pio, just off St Peter’s Square, Romans and tourists refused to believe the news. The pope resigning? No, that cannot be. It’s a conspiracy, it’s not true, were the immediate reactions of everyone out on a bitterly cold February morning.
Even the Vatican’s affable, long-time senior spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi, seemed astonished. At a hastily called briefing, Fr Lombardi candidly admitted he was as surprised as everyone else and confessed he was unable to say with certainty how some of the interregnum arrangements would work.
Others pointed out that Italian director Nanni Moretti’s highly successful film of two years ago, Habemus Papam, had been cannily accurate. In it, a modern pope is portrayed as simply unable any longer to face the physical and, above all, mental stress of the job.
Rivalry and corruption
Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of last year’s bestseller His Holiness, which laid bare a Holy See riven by internal rivalry, corruption and careerist ambition but deprived of a competent helmsman, said that he felt sorry for the “sick” pope.
There were those, however, who claimed not to have been taken by surprise.
Gian Maria Vian, editor of Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano, said the decision had been taken months ago by the pope. Italian president Giorgio Napolitano said he had suspected as much after meeting the pope last week.
Last week the printers in the Vatican print shop were ordered to delay production of the Annuario Pontifica, the big red book containing the names, numbers and addresses of all Vatican office holders. It seems at least someone knew one important change was a-coming.