Friday, February 23, 2007

Knives On the Altar

Some of you might remember Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the onetime top curialist/capo della famiglia Irpinia who Papa Ratzi dispatched last year to the archbishopric of Naples.

(...because the New Boss loved Ranjith more. But I digress.)

The former Assesore of the Secretariat of State and master-builder of the Great Jubilee, who inherited the moniker of the "Red Pope" as prefect of what they still call the Propaganda Fide, Sepe's first Lent in the place best known for Mafiosi lore and San Gennaro's annually-liquefying blood has been marked by a rather curious initiative: a call for the youth of Italy's murder capital to "unsheath [their] courage" and hand over their knives in church, anonymously and without penalty.

The campaign, first reported on by Robert Mickens in last week's edition of The Tablet, even included Sepe's hope that "the kids left a few grams of drugs" behind as well.

(The latter bit was enough for one veteran Roman hand to thunder "Per chi?!" -- "Who for?!" -- when it came up in conversation.)

But this week, Mickens' Letter from Rome sends word that "20 knives were handed over by local hoods" in the program's first eight days. The results were trumpeted, of course, in the pages of L'Osservatore Romano, which, he observes, "still [has] some highly placed Sepe devotees"; the former head of Stato's Information Office is credited with the hiring of current Osservatore editor Mario Agnes in 1984, the same year he nabbed the then-head of the Italian foreign press, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, to serve as director of the Holy See Press Office.

Twenty in eight days is good, but it doesn't take an Irpinian to know that the yield would be even better if la Madre were brought in to do the job. (Not to mention that, overnight, the program would be funded to the hilt for the next decade and then some.)

Whatever the case, remember well that Sepe's only 62. And, clearly, Rome hasn't heard the last of him yet.