Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Yes, Virginia...

As you see, Little Red Riding Pope made another appearance this morning.

Not to sound like a church queen or anything -- I wasn't the one crying tears of joy when the Papal Fur Show started on 8 December -- but somebody's really got to stop this combination of the double-cape with grecca (overcoat) and camauro. The Mix-and-Match rule is not applicable to Popes, and the local clergy here in Philadelphia (known across the universe for being sartorially fabulous and pastorally rubrical) have a time-honored word for things of the kind: Pigshit.

Don't scream at me; it's their word, not mine. But whatever floats your boat, Holy Father. It is your show, after all.

To more important things, the Italian newsmagazine Panorama returns this week to a long-enjoyed topic here: the continuing catfight between Ratzinger's two great protege-secretaries, Josef Clemens, now a bishop and secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and Georg Ganswein, whom you all know from the modeling exploits which've brought him to the pages of Italian Vanity Fair, Vogue, etc.

I'm convinced that no personage short of Peggy Wood, herself, could bring these warring parties back to some kind of rapport -- because, eventually, someone has to ask the immortal question "What is it you can't face, Maria?"

This has been going on for a year now, people. It's getting ridiculous, and if it's catty you're looking for, well, they passed that mile-marker before the conclave.... Not for nothing did an Italian gay website, of all places, call the now-legendary public brawl the secretaries had in the Piazza della Citta' Leonina "unbecoming of even the worst drag queens of the Continent."

Think about that as you keep in mind that these are the clerics closest to the Pope.

Oh, and it is reconfirmed that the ermine mozzetta was a gift of "a Roman lady and a German" -- reported here last week to be Princesses Ale Borghese and her "apostle," Gloria von Thurn und Taxis. Panorama reports that the gift was sent through Clemens, but whether the bishop-secretary enjoys their loyalty in the divisive feud is unclear....

Elsewhere in the "thousand gossips" of the Panorama piece, the future of Sala Stampa is discussed. Of course, it's no secret that Joaquin Navarro-Valls will be leaving the Press Office in short order, consigning the reporter-wrangling to another after 21 years of distinguished, always suave, service in the line of fire.

In contrast to Navarro-Valls, a layman (and Opus Dei numerary), the two names mentioned in the Italian piece are both priests: the Jesuit Pasquale Borgomeo, the director of the Vatican Television Center (the real Catholic TV network) and Gian Paolo Salvini, the "respected" editor of the renowned journal Civilta Cattolica, the contents of which must be approved by the Secretariat of State before publication.

The name of Navarro's successor is, however, but one piece of the puzzle.

Under the current operating protocols, Sala Stampa is run out of State's Information Office. However, the presence of CTV, Vatican Radio, the Holy See's website, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, L'Osservatore Romano, Sala Stampa, etc. have made concerns over the coordination of the Vatican's "voice" in a multimedia world ever more paramount. So the bigger questions at stake are whether the Holy See's communications apparatus is streamlined, what happens to Sala Stampa and how the "thousand voices" which each claim to speak for the global headquarters of Catholic, Inc. are consolidated into one.

Yes, it's been covered a bit in the English press, but this is one of the sleeper Vatican stories of the new year. Keep an eye.

PHOTO: AP/Domenico Stinellis