Monday, January 14, 2013

Pope’s message to the Vatican police: “Be kind”

Domenico Giani, Commander of the Vatican GendarmerieFirst 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 challenges.” 

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. 

“The 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 sacrifice.” 

“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 the Vatican.” 

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.
 
Despite the 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 Interpol. 

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 operational one.

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