Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Changing Style of Benedict

No, this isn't about the clothes. We've covered that enough already.

In a succinct but enjoyable first-person account, Phil Pulella of Reuters recounts his own experiences of the new Pope and the contrast he's wrought behind the Vatican walls.... The shot is of Pulella -- who's been in Rome with the wire service for 20 years -- with the Fluff.

A much more reserved man than his predecessor, Benedict has installed a new, quieter style in the Vatican's "Sacred Palaces", as the Holy See's buildings are known in Italian.

A German, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger lets few "outsiders" into his private apartments, so hints of what is on his mind rarely trickle out.

Even Vatican officials on other floors in the papal palace say they sometimes have trouble guessing what the Pope will decide.

One source famously told me during the first year of the papacy: "I can assure you, we not only know zero, we know less than zero."

Monsignor Georg Ganswein, a 49-year old German with boyish good looks, is the Pope's private secretary.

His style is more reserved that that of Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, a sharp, flesh-pressing operator who was the long-time personal secretary to John Paul.

Dziwisz used an extensive web of contacts with journalists and politicians to promote John Paul and let people know what was on his master's mind.

Under Benedict, only those reporters who are doing a pool assignment for the first time can greet him and have their picture taken with him.

Occasionally, Ganswein, a very friendly person with a ready smile, asks reporters himself if they have ever been in the frescoed room before for a pool assignment since Benedict's election on April 19, 2005.

The second time I went up he asked several of us that question.

"Do I really have to be honest?" I asked in jest.

Smiling, he responded: "Yes, you really do have to be honest."

So, I stepped aside and did not get a second picture with the Pope. Sorry mum.