View From Rome
In 1998 police raided the headquarters of the Buenos Aires archdiocese as part of an investigation into a financial scandal. The local media had been tipped off, and a group of journalists was assembled outside the curial offices. Inside, the recently appointed archbishop, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was worried. He made a phone call to a young priest called Guillermo Marco, who he knew had experience of handling the press.
Earlier in the day there had been a cool breeze, but by mid-afternoon Rome was basking in spring sunshine, allowing a brilliant white light to stream through Bernini’s window of the Holy Spirit in St Peter’s Basilica as the choir of Merton College, Oxford, began singing the introit to evensong.
It was one of the most moving moments I’ve experienced in reporting on this papacy. Pope Francis stepped off the papal plane and into the war zone of the Central African Republic, a country he’d been strongly advised not to visit but which he insisted on going to anyway. “Give me a parachute if you can’t get me there,” he told his pilot.
The 1,000-room Palazzo Doria Pamphilj is home to one of Italy’s greatest private art collections, which includes a couple of dazzling Caravaggios and a Titian. But perhaps its most surprising acquisition is the Anglican Centre in Rome, which has recently celebrated its fiftieth birthday.
Opposition to Pope Francis started bubbling away almost as soon as he was elected. Now it has spilled out into the streets of Rome. What had previously been confined to letters and blogs circulated by conservative cardinals and pressure groups has been given a more populist flavour after a mysterious series of anti-Francis posters were seen plastered around 40 locations in the Eternal City.
View from Rome Premium02 February 2017
The popular image of Francis is of the cheerful, compassionate, avuncular Argentine who rescues refugees and celebrates his birthday by having breakfast with the homeless.
With his focus on poverty, inequality and climate change Pope Francis has become something of a standard bearer for progressives across the world – the sort of people who view the presidency of Donald Trump with a mixture of fear and horror.
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