Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pope's glamorous aide Francesca Chaouqui ruffling Vatican feathers

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WITH her film-star looks, flowing hair and leather jacket provocatively unzipped, Francesca Chaouqui cuts an unusual figure alongside the elderly men who run the Catholic church. 
 
But when the 27-year-old public relations consultant was appointed to a key Vatican commission last month, the step was hailed as a symbol of Pope Francis's determination to bring in fresh blood.

Last week, however, the unconventional choice turned into an embarrassment for the Argentine Pontiff as attention focused on a series of tweets sent from Ms Chaouqui's account in the months before her nomination - including one in which Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, was labelled as "corrupt".

The row has exposed a Vatican power-struggle appearing to pit the Pope, whose vision is of "a poor church, for the poor", against the Roman Curia, the bureaucracy that has been tainted by scandals over corruption, pedophilia and cronyism.

Born in Italy to a father of Moroccan origin, Ms Chaouqui is close to several Italian cardinals. 

In 2010, she posted a slideshow on YouTube that includes an apparently topless studio portrait with her boyfriend.

Last month, the Pope appointed Ms Chaouqui to an eight-member commission set up to overhaul the Vatican's financial administration. 

It was apparently only after her appointment that the Pope, on a triumphant tour of Brazil, was told of her outspoken interventions on Twitter. It is not known if he was aware of the photoshoot.

The attack on Cardinal Bertone, a powerful but divisive figure, was bad enough. Another tweet claimed the Pope's predecessor, Benedict XVI, who stepped down in February, suffered from leukaemia - despite official denials.

A third said Paolo Gabriele, Benedict's former butler, did not leak papal files published in a bestselling book - although he was convicted of stealing them and leaking them.

Giulio Tremonti, a former Italian finance minister, said last week he was suing Ms Chaouqui and newspapers over another tweet that said he was gay. Cardinal Bertone denies corruption and is reportedly considering a lawsuit.

For Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of the book His Holiness, based on the leaked papal files, Ms Chaouqui is more sinned against than sinner. "People close to Bertone are using Francesca as a tool to defend their own interests," he said. "The Curia is playing a petty game; it doesn't like the fact that this Pope is keeping it out of key decisions.

"Francesca has nothing to be ashamed about; she just criticised Bertone. It's good that the Pope picked a young woman; she'll help review how work contracts are awarded for example, and that's irritating for the Curia."

Jesuit priest Thomas Reese, an analyst with National Catholic Reporter, agrees. "The Vatican Curia is trying to teach Francis that if he is in a hurry and does not go through channels, he can make embarrassing mistakes," he said. "The Vatican has always been against outsiders, either ecclesiastical or secular, looking into their business."

The Pope has made little secret of his antipathy towards the Vatican bureaucracy, which he branded "a snakepit" in a conversation with a cousin before his election.

He has created a small secretariat to help him run the church - and chosen to base himself in a hotel suite at St Martha's House, used by visiting clergy, rather than the official apartments in the Apostolic Palace, which he considers too opulent.

There have also been expectations that he will make important personnel changes, including replacing Cardinal Bertone.

Ms Chaouqui, meanwhile, has quietly closed her Twitter account. She told the newspaper Corriere della Sera she was not the only one to use it and denied writing the tweet about Mr Tremonti.

"I'm not worried because the Holy Father is not worried," she said. 

This comment, she said, had been agreed with Father Federico Lombardi, the Pope's spokesman - an apparent indication the Pope intends to stand by her.

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