First they became targets in the Vatileaks scandal, mentioned in some documents that were published in a chapter of Italian writer Gianluigi Nuzzi’s book “Sua Santità” (“His Holiness”).
Then they became protagonists in the scandal, as efficient
investigators who helped uncover the poison pen letter writer by
searching Paolo Gabriele’s home.
Finally, they were again suspected of
allegedly mistreating the Pope’s former butler during his detainment in
the Vatican prison prior to the trial.
This past Friday afternoon, Benedict XVI
received the Vatican Gendarmerie in an audience, in which he expressed
his support to the police force, urging its members to always be kind
with pilgrims and visitors.
A statement issued by the Holy See said the Pope
“had wanted to hold this audience in order to show encouragement to the
police force and his gratefulness after a period of particularly tough
The reference to the Vatileaks scandal was implicit.
General Domenico Giani gave a moving speech to Pope Benedict XVI in the
Clementine Hall. Giani is a former Italian secret services agent, who
re-militarised the Pope’s “guardian angels” after the demilitarisation
ordered by Paul VI, kitting it out with the most cutting edge equipment.
He thanked the Pope for his “deeply meaningful” gesture: “Inviting us
all here today to meet you makes us immensely proud,” Giani said. The
general thanked the Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, the President
of the Governorate, Bertello, the Secretary General Sciacca and above
all, Mgr. Georg Gänswein, the New Prefect of the Papal Household.
entire Vatican family - he added – feel like little Cyrenians, serving
you who carries the weight of humanity on your shoulders.”
Benedict XVI thanked the Gendarmerie for the
“commendable commitment” shown to the “invaluable work” that they do. He
expressed his esteem, encouragement and recognition for the work they
carried out “discreetly, competently and efficiently and not without
“Every day I have the opportunity to meet some of you in
your various workplaces and to witness your professionalism first hand,”
the Pope added.
Ratzinger then said: “Amongst other things, the
Gendarmerie is called to be polite and kind to pilgrims and visitors to
He explained that their surveillance and security work
“sometimes requires a great deal of patience, perseverance and
willingness to listen,” reiterating his invitation to members of the
police to be kind: “In every pilgrim or visitor try to see the face of a
brother that God has placed along your life path; greet them,
therefore, with kindness and help them, feeling them as members of the
great human family.”
It is possible that these constant references to
the importance of kindness could be in response to some complaints that
were made by certain individuals in the diplomatic sphere about an
incident that occurred in recent months, perhaps as a result of tensions
over the Vatileaks scandal.
The Pope also sent out an informal invitation to
heads of the Gendarmerie, to “increasingly foster relationships of trust
that can offer support and encouragement tot all members of the Vatican
Gendarmerie, even during tough moments.” This could be an indirect
reference to tensions noted within the Vatican police force.
controversies and the documents published in Nuzzi’s book, General Giani
remains firmly in place: the relationship of trust he shares with
Cardinal Bertone and the Pope’s secretary is bulletproof and so there is
no sign of changes being made to the Gendarmerie’s leadership, as
presumed by those who foresaw the general taking up a position at
One likely change that is looming on the horizon is the
replacement of the Gendarmerie’s number two man, the Vice Commander Raul
Bonarelli, as he is approaching retirement age.
The favourite to
succeed Bonarelli is Colonel Costanzo Alessandrini, one of the men who
is closest to General Giani.
But there are some who think it is possible
the new Vice Commander could come from the outside, possibly from one
of the Pontifical universities.
The individual chosen would preferably
be someone with an administration/management-focused CV rather than an