Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Israeli strikes on Gaza as seen on social media

Read more

DEBATE

Africa's Newest Failed State: How to Stop Civil War and Famine in South Sudan? (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Israel and the Palestinians: How to Break the Cycle of Violence?

Read more

DEBATE

Africa's Newest Failed State: How to Stop Civil War and Famine in South Sudan?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Somalia : Al Shebab attack on presidential palace

Read more

FOCUS

Sharia law to be enshrined in British legal system?

Read more

ENCORE!

How a comedy dud became one of France's biggest box office hits

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Kenya: Clashes at anti-government rally in Nairobi

Read more

WEB NEWS

ISIS leader challenged over expensive-looking wristwatch

Read more

  • Argentina beat the Netherlands on penalties to reach World Cup final

    Read more

  • Foiled French jihadist ‘targeted Louvre and Eiffel Tower’

    Read more

  • Obama in Texas to urge action on child migrant crisis

    Read more

  • Iraq’s heritage 'in danger' from ISIS militants

    Read more

  • Froome crashes out of Tour de France

    Read more

  • South Sudan independence heroes ‘have lost their way’

    Read more

  • Dozens of blindfolded bodies found south of Baghdad

    Read more

  • Israel pummels Gaza in retaliation for Hamas rocket attacks

    Read more

  • Alps Murder wife had ex-husband who died on same day

    Read more

  • Both candidates say they won Indonesian presidential election

    Read more

  • Brazil players should never wear 'sacred uniform' again, press says

    Read more

  • Exiled Syrian opposition elects new president

    Read more

  • China’s first Tour de France cyclist chases his dream

    Read more

  • Ukraine imposes new conditions on peace talks with pro-Russia rebels

    Read more

  • Sarkozy's UMP party 'almost €80 million in debt'

    Read more

  • Typhoon Neoguri turns deadly as it batters Japanese islands

    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

Comments

COMMENT(S)