Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Netanyahu deletes tweet featuring photo of James Foley

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 22 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 22 August 2014

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Read more

FOCUS

Lifting the veil over China's air pollution

Read more

ENCORE!

Tango Takeover in Paris

Read more

WEB NEWS

Calls for ISIS media blackout after execution of James Foley

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Steely resolve of reporters exploited by pared-down employers'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

US judge calls Argentina bond swap offer illegal

Read more

  • French teenage girls held over Syria jihad plans

    Read more

  • Iceland issues aviation alert on volcano activity

    Read more

  • France will not be 'be pushed around' by Germany

    Read more

  • ‘European GPS’ satellites launched into wrong orbit

    Read more

  • Merkel in Kiev as aid convoy ‘returns to Russia’

    Read more

  • Suicide bomber targets Iraq intelligence HQ in deadly attack

    Read more

  • Video: Israel bombs kidnapping suspect’s home

    Read more

  • US brands journalist’s beheading a ‘terrorist attack’

    Read more

  • Ebola prompts Philippines to recall UN troops in Liberia

    Read more

  • Besieged by problems, Hollande faces unhappy return from summer holidays

    Read more

  • US sued over ‘deportation mill’ in New Mexico

    Read more

  • Colombian army and FARC rebels in face-to-face talks

    Read more

  • US National Guard starts to pull out of embattled Ferguson

    Read more

  • PSG fall flat once more against Evian

    Read more

  • US job market yet to recover from recession, says Fed Chair

    Read more

  • August 22, 1914: The bloodiest day in French military history

    Read more

  • Fear of Ebola sky-high among Air France workers

    Read more

  • US says Islamic State threat 'beyond anything we've seen'

    Read more

  • Interactive: Relive the Liberation of Paris in WWII

    Read more

Europe

Papal paradox: Vatican’s wealth and Jesuit humility

Text by Douglas HERBERT

Latest update : 2013-03-15

To all appearances, the Catholic Church's new Pope Francis is a humble man with simple tastes. Which begs the question, how will he manage the Vatican's considerable wealth?

He carries his own luggage, clatters along Rome's cobbled streets in an ordinary Volkswagen, and whips out his wallet to settle hotel bills.

So it's perhaps natural to wonder how Pope Francis, an ecclesiastical everyman known for his self-effacement and lifelong aversion to opulence of any kind, will react when he relieves himself for the first time and discovers the Vatican's Golden Toilet Flush?

It was a discovery which, according to one account, horrified Pope John Paul I, who wrote: "...this morning, I flushed my toilet with a solid gold lever edged with diamonds and at this very moment, bishops and cardinals are using a bathroom on the second floor of the Papal palace with trappings, I am told, (that) would draw more than fifty million dollars at auction."

Trillion-dollar nest egg

Few who followed this week's papal conclave and the glittery "Habemus Papam" ceremony that followed the belching white smoke, could fail to note the contrast between the resplendence of the ecclesiastical show - and the economic hardship on display elsewhere in Italy and across much of Europe.

When all its global properties - stretching from St. Peter's Basilica to Brazil to Old Bond Street - are added up, the Vatican's nest egg, experts say, amounts to trillions of dollars.

The Rev. Dan Vojir, a former radio show talk host who has been writing and blogging on religion and politics for the better part of a decade, says one can argue that the Vatican controls an economy even larger than that of the United States.

While that may be disputable, what's clear is that the true value of the Vatican's vast financial empire - and the opulence that goes with it - remains a tightly guarded secret.

Ascetic role model

Getting the scandal-tainted Vatican Bank to come clean on its assets and business practices will be one among many of the daunting challenges facing the new pontiff.

But already, we can surmise that a Pope whose choice of name, Francis, was inspired by the Catholic Church's most ascetic saint - a man whose devotion to a life of privation and poverty is seen by many as second only to that of Jesus Christ himself - will take a "zero tolerance" approach to clerical excess. Saint Francis of Assisi was an equal-opportunity preacher of the faith.

He made little distinction between man and beast, praying to birds and, in one notable instance of missionary zeal, imploring a wolf to refrain from attacking members of his flock (in exchange for a promise from said flock to keep said wolf well fed.)

'May God forgive you'

When he wasn't busy inventing the Christmas nativity scene, Francis of Assisi spread a basic message: that the world is good but in need of redemption due to man's primordial sin.

Some 800 years later, Pope Francis delivered a similar message to his cardinals at a maiden Mass at the Sistine Chapel on Thursday evening.

The night before, a self-deprecating Francis had responded to a celebratory toast from these same cardinals, congratulating him on his election, by asking God "to forgive you for what you have done" (ie, electing him as Pope).

But in his homily, Francis adopted a more earnest tone, reminding the cardinals that life is a journey, one in which mankind must persevere.

Weaving together various readings from the Book of Isaiah, the psalms and The Gospel of Matthew, he spoke of the need to bear the Cross...to keep moving forward...to keep building and professing the faith.

And then it was off to break the seal on his new Papal residence...in the Volkswagen.
 

Date created : 2013-03-15

  • VATICAN

    From sex abuse to graft: new pope faces old challenges

    Read more

  • VATICAN

    'Humble' Argentine cardinal becomes Pope Francis

    Read more

COMMENT(S)