The Pope, the press and the facts

2012-05-31 Vatican Radio

The case of the personal documents stolen from Pope Benedict XVI and published by Italian press continues to attract the interest of international media, to the point that in an impromptu speech at the end of his weekly appointment with the faithful from around the world, the Pope himself addressed it directly. Emer McCarthy reports Listen:

“The events of recent days”, he said, "have brought sadness to my heart, but never obscured my firm conviction that despite trials, difficulties and weaknesses, the Lord does not abandon his Church." “Nevertheless,” continued the Pope “some entirely gratuitous allegations have spread, amplified by some media, which went well beyond the facts, offering a picture of the Holy See that does not correspond to reality.” Pope Benedict concluded, saying, “I would like therefore to reiterate my confidence and my encouragement to my staff and to all those who, day in and day out, faithfully and with a spirit of sacrifice, quietly help me in fulfilling my ministry.''

One of those collaborators, Holy See Press Office Director, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., met with press for a third straight day Wednesday in a briefing that consisted largely in deflating many of those rumours of which the Pope had spoken in his audience.

He reiterated that they only person arrested and formally charged for the theft of the Pope’s personal documents remains Paolo Gabriele and there are no others, lay or clergy, currently detained – as reported by some press. That Gabriele met again Wednesday morning with his lawyers who have formulated a request for his release under house arrest. That his formal interrogation would take place in the coming days.

Fr Lombardi again underlined that the official investigation into the criminal act of theft is being carried out by the Vatican Gendarme (police force) and magistrates. That the Commission of Cardinals’ inquiry into the source of leaked Vatican documents was a separate if parallel effort to arrive at the truth.

Fr. Lombardi again corrected press claims that documents ready to be sent to specific recipients were found in Gabriele’s home, but – he added - the material found in the Butler’s possession is still being studied and cataloged.

Fr. Lombardi again stressed the importance of truth and objectivity in reporting on this case which is not only a source of pain for the Pope but for the faithful worldwide.

"I think that our will to reach the truth, the desire for clarity, for transparency - arrived at gradually over time – this is how we are trying to handle this new situation: in all honesty we are trying to understand what objectively happened. But first, whatever we do, we must remember respect for the privacy and protection of the person and for the truth”.

In an interview with L'Osservatore Romano, another of the Pope’s closest collaborators, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the Substitute of the Secretariat of State, stated that the Holy Father was not merely “robbed of letters”, but the act of stealing and publishing those letters was an act of “violence on the consciences of those who turn to him as Vicar of Christ in full confidence”.

He also dismissed the principal “that the end justifies the means”. This has been claimed by the anonymous sources who provided the leaked documents to the press and the journalists who published them, in the name of greater transparency and reform in the Church. How can any reform, he asked, be based on flouting moral laws? Stealing is immoral.

Archbishop Becciu reiterated that the Church firmly believes that “the truth will set you free”, but that the distorted image of the Vatican as presented in the press based on unfounded rumours and unproven speculation is far from the truth. He spoke of “an underlying hypocrisy” in press reporting: “On the one hand the central government of the Church is accused of being absolutist and monarchical” while on the other many of the personal documents published by Italian press reveal contrasting ideas and even complaints about the governance of the Church. Thus proving, in Archbishop Becciu’s view, that “we are not mummies; rather, different viewpoints or even contrasting evaluations are normal”.

Responding to journalists questions on reports of the Pope’s possible resignation Fr. Lombardi dismissed the rumours as some journalists' “hobbyhorse”. The Curia he concluded - "continues to express solidarity with the Pope and to operate in full communion with the Successor of Peter. At this time and in this situation we can only express our great appreciation for the Holy Father, for his ministry, his demonstration of unity, coherence and consistency in dealing with this situation."

But perhaps it was best put by Benedict XVI, who in his Wednesday audience observed: “Faced with conflict in human relationships, even within the family, often we fail to persevere in gratuitous love, which demands effort and sacrifice. Instead, God does not tire of us, He never grows tired of being patient with us and with his immense mercy He is always before us, He always comes to encounter us. "