Tag Archives: Vatican

Cocaine Haul Found in 91-Year-Old Vatican Librarian’s Car

Argentinean Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia (R) looks at Pope John Paul II during his weekly general audience in St Peter's square at the Vatican 08 October 2003

An official Vatican car with diplomatic licence plates has been found riddled with several kilos of cocaine and cannabis in the French Alps, according to local reports. 

The car belongs to an Argentine cardinal, 91-year-old Jorge Maria Mejia, who is also emeritus librarian at the Holy See. Mejia retired in 2003 and is confined to bed following an heart attack. Pope Francis visited Mejia just two days after being elected. 

According to French newspaper Le Monde, the cardinal’s personal secretary entrusted two Italian men, aged 31 and 41, with taking the car for its annual checkup.

They drove the vehicle to Spain to buy four kilos of cocaine and 200 grams of cannabis and returned to France, according to reports, in the belief that the diplomatic plates would protect them. 

But in Chambery, near the border with Switzerland and Italy, the two were stopped by customs officers for a routine check. After the bizarre discovery, they were arrested and taken into custody. Judicial police in Lyon have opened an investigation for drug trafficking.

The Vatican confirmed the car had been stopped in France with the drugs on board. Since neither of the men had Vatican diplomatic passports, the Vatican is not legally implicated, French sources say.

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Pope says weapons manufacturers can’t call themselves Christian

Pope Francis adjusts his glasses in front of his chair, which has an image of the Shroud of Turin woven into the red fabric, as he leads a mass during a two-day pastoral visit in Turin, Italy, June 21, 2015.

People who manufacture weapons or invest in weapons industries are hypocrites if they call themselves Christian, Pope Francis said on Sunday.

Francis issued his toughest condemnation to date of the weapons industry at a rally of thousands of young people at the end of the first day of his trip to the Italian city of Turin.

“If you trust only men you have lost,” he told the young people in a long, rambling talk about war, trust and politics after putting aside his prepared address.

“It makes me think of … people, managers, businessmen who call themselves Christian and they manufacture weapons. That leads to a bit a distrust, doesn’t it?” he said to applause.

He also criticized those who invest in weapons industries, saying “duplicity is the currency of today … they say one thing and do another.”

Francis also built on comments he has made in the past about events during the first and second world wars.

He spoke of the “tragedy of the Shoah,” using the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.

“The great powers had the pictures of the railway lines that brought the trains to the concentration camps like Auschwitz to kill Jews, Christians, homosexuals, everybody. Why didn’t they bomb (the railway lines)?”

Discussing World War One, he spoke of “the great tragedy of Armenia” but did not use the word “genocide”.

Francis sparked a diplomatic row in April calling the massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenians 100 years ago “the first genocide of the 20th century,” prompting Turkey to recall its ambassador to the Vatican.

The Vatican and the Palestinians

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Pope Francis.

The practical effect of the Vatican’s decision to sign a treaty recognizing the state of Palestine is debatable, but it is a symbolic victory for Palestinians who are struggling to keep alive their dream of a Palestinian state, which has been thwarted by the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Vatican has effectively treated Palestine as a state since the United Nations General Assembly voted in 2012 to recognize Palestine as a nonmember observer state. It has been referring unofficially to the state of Palestine for at least a year.

But the new treaty, addressing issues like properties, taxes and protocol at holy sites, will make clear the Vatican has formally switched its diplomatic relations from the Palestine Liberation Organization, which was named in earlier drafts, to the state of Palestine.

The announcement on Wednesday comes at an especially bleak moment for Israel-Palestinian peace efforts. American-led negotiations collapsed 13 months ago and Israel is about to install a new government that is widely considered more hard-line and hostile to a two-state solution than its predecessors.

On the eve of the March 17 elections, Mr. Netanyahu said flat out that no Palestinian state would be established during his tenure, and while he later softened his position, the possibility of any serious negotiating initiative seems dead. The guidelines for Israel’s new government even omitted the term “Palestinian state.”

Many experts believe that Israel’s expansion of housing units for Israelis in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has made establishing a territorially coherent Palestinian state nearly impossible. All of which has set the Palestinians on a quest for international recognition and support for sovereignty, ultimately to pressure Israel into talks.

Not surprisingly, Israel expressed disappointment at the Vatican’s decision and said it would not advance the cause of peace. Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, was less restrained, telling The Washington Post the treaty represents a resurgence of the “historical Catholic enmity towards Jews.”

But Pope Francis has made it a point to improve relations with other religious denominations and has described the spiritual bond between Catholics and Jews as “very special.”

Last month, he condemned anti-Semitic incidents in Europe and declared that Christians and Jews must defend one another from discrimination and persecution.

He has also repeatedly demonstrated a commitment to social and humanitarian issues, speaking out with his moral authority on the need to confront inequality around the world.

While the Vatican’s announcement may carry special weight, it’s far from the only government to recognize Palestine. Some 135 nations have recognized a state of Palestine since 1988. In October, Sweden formally recognized the Palestinian state.

In recent months, parliaments in Britain, Spain, France and Ireland have urged their governments to do the same. Meanwhile, international efforts are underway to increase pressure on Israel through boycotts and United Nations resolutions.

A negotiated Israeli-Palestinian deal on a two-state solution is the best chance for justice and peace. But given the complete breakdown of negotiations, it is likely that more governments, in supporting the claims of the Palestinian people, will formally accept Palestine as a state.

The Countries Where You’re Surrounded By Tourists

silver-datalab-tourists-1-v3

The Vatican still qualifies as a huge outlier relative to the rest of the world. My method estimates that there are about five tourists there on average for every one resident, or a tourist percentage of 83 percent. Surely the tourist percentage is higher still during the hours when the Vatican Museums are open or when the Pope is hosting a major public event.

Ranking second in the world is tiny Andorra, with a tourist percentage of 29 percent. The numbers drop off quickly after that; it’s about 11 percent in Palau and Bahrain, for example, 9 percent in the Bahamas and 8 percent in Monaco.

Vicente Villamón / Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

There’s an economic lesson here: Even in places whose economies are dominated by tourism, and where it may seem like you’re completely surrounded by tourists, you’ll generally find a number of locals for every tourist. Hotels can employ one employee per guest room or even more in parts of the world where labor is cheap but tourist dollars are plentiful. Tourists also need dining, transportation and entertainment options.

Meanwhile, all the people who work in the tourism industry have families and needs of their own. This is why tourism is associated with a multiplier effect; it produces secondary and tertiary sources of income and employment in addition to the revenues received directly from tourists.

By contrast, tourists can represent a vanishingly small part of the population in large countries. This next chart lists the tourist percentage for the top 25 countries in the world by GDP:

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French Police Found 9 Pounds Of Cocaine In A Vatican Car

Pope Francis

Pope Francis blesses the faithful from the backseat of his car as he leaves the Quirinale Presidential palace.

Police in France find cocaine and marijuana in a vehicle with Holy See diplomatic plates belonging to Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia

Pope Francis may have often spoken out against the “evil” of drug use, but the Vatican was facing embarrassment on Tuesday after 9lb of cocaine was found in a car bearing diplomatic plates associated with the Holy See.

The car, which was stopped and searched in France, belonged to Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia, who had entrusted it to two Italian men.

Aged 91, the cardinal retired in 2003 and holds the title of emeritus librarian at the Holy See.

The two men, aged 30 and 41, had reportedly been told by his private secretary to take the car for a routine service.

Instead they promptly drove to Spain, where they allegedly bought the cocaine and from there drove into France. They reportedly believed that the car’s diplomatic status would place them above suspicion.

But on Sunday they were stopped at a toll station near Chambery in the French Alps, en route back to Italy, where police found the cocaine hidden in suitcases and bags, along with seven ounces of cannabis.

They were arrested and will appear in front of a French magistrate on charges of drug trafficking.

The Vatican confirmed the report, but said that as both men were Italian rather than citizens of the Vatican City State, it had nothing to do with the Holy See.

Cardinal Mejia is not well and obviously has nothing to do with this,” said Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman. “It’s now up to the police to pursue their investigations.”

Pope Francis has often warned of the dangers of taking drugs, most recently in June when he called addiction an “evil”.

He is firmly opposed to the legalisation of any drugs, despite moves in many countries in the West, including several states in the US, to allow the personal consumption of soft drugs such as marijuana.

“I would reaffirm what I have stated on another occasion: no to every type of drug use. It is as simple as that,” he told a drug enforcement conference in Rome.

Drug trafficking “continues to spread inexorably,” he said, adding it was fuelled by “a deplorable commerce which transcends national borders.”

Pope Francis says he expects to live two or three more years, and may retire

77-year-old says he may ‘soon be off to the Father’s house’ and would retire if he could no longer perform his duties

Pope Francis has publicly broached the prospect of his own death for the first time, light-heartedly giving himself “two or three years” but not ruling out retirement before then.

Talking to reporters on a flight back to the Vatican from South Korea, the 77-year-old pontiff, who seemed in good spirits, was asked about his global popularity, which was evident again during his five-day visit.

“I see it as the generosity of the people of God. I try to think of my sins, my mistakes, not to become proud. Because I know it will last only a short time. Two or three years and then I’ll be off to the Father’s house,” he replied.

The Argentinian pope said he could handle the popularity “more naturally” these days, though at first it had “scared me a little”.

While the pope has not spoken publicly before about when he might meet his maker, a Vatican source said he had previously told those close to him that he thought he only had a few years left.

Pope Francis also mentioned the possibility of retiring from the papacy, as his predecessor Benedict XVI did last year, if he felt he could no longer adequately perform his duties.

Resigning the papacy was a possibility “even if it does not appeal to some theologians”, he told reporters.

He added that 60 years ago it was practically unheard of for Catholic bishops to retire, but nowadays it was common. “Benedict XVI opened a door,” he said.

Francis admitted he had “some nerve problems”, which required treatment. “Must treat them well, these nerves, give them mate [an Argentinian stimulant tea] every day,” he joked.

“One of these neuroses is that I’m too much of a homebody,” he added, recalling that the last time he had taken a holiday outside his native Argentina was “with the Jesuit community in 1975”.

Pope Francis: ‘About 2%’ of Catholic clergy paedophiles

Pope Francis

Pope Francis has been quoted as saying that reliable data indicates that “about 2%” of clergy in the Catholic Church are paedophiles.

The Pope said that abuse of children was like “leprosy” infecting the Church, according to the Italian La Repubblica newspaper.

He vowed to “confront it with the severity it demands”.

But a Vatican spokesman said the quotes in the newspaper did not correspond to Pope Francis’s exact words.

The BBC’s David Willey in Rome says there is often a studied ambiguity in Pope Francis’ off-the-cuff statements.

He wants to show a more compassionate attitude towards Church teaching than his predecessors, but this can sometimes cause consternation among his media advisers, our correspondent adds.

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Analysis: David Willey, BBC News, Rome

When is a papal interview not an interview? Sunday’s edition of La Repubblica devotes its first three pages to an account of a conversation between Pope Francis and editor Eugenio Scalfari, which took place last Thursday. Papal spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a sharp note that it was not an interview in the normal sense of the word, although he admitted it conveyed the “sense and the spirit” of the conversation.

Mr Scalfari does not use a digital recorder, and Father Lombardi said Pope Francis never checked the accuracy of the interview.

Until now, the Vatican has declined to quantify the extent of clerical sexual abuse scandals in the worldwide Church. Statistics are usually available only for countries in the developed world. In the developing world, information is usually only sketchy.

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In the interview, Pope Francis was quoted as saying that the 2% estimate came from advisers. It would represent around 8,000 priests out of a global number of about 414,000.

While the incidence of paedophilia as a psychiatric disorder in the general population is not accurately known, some estimates have put it at less than five percent.

“Among the 2% who are paedophiles are priests, bishops and cardinals. Others, more numerous, know but keep quiet. They punish without giving the reason,” Pope Francis was quoted as saying.

“I find this state of affairs intolerable,” he went on.

Protesters against clerical child abuse gather outside the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis in June 2014Many Catholics feel the Church hierarchy has not taken strict enough action against abusers

Above the interview La Repubblica ran the headline: “Pope says: Like Jesus, I shall use a stick against paedophile priests.”

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi denied that Pope Francis had said that there were cardinals who were paedophiles.

Last year Pope Francis strengthened the Vatican’s laws against child abuse and earlier this month begged forgiveness from the victims of sexual abuse by priests, at his first meeting with victims since his election.

Many survivors of abuse by priests are angry at what they see as the Vatican‘s failure to punish senior officials who have been accused of covering up scandals.

Asked in the same La Repubblica interview about the celibacy rule for priests, Pope Francis recalled that it was adopted 900 years after the death of Jesus Christ and pointed out that the Eastern Catholic Church allows its priests to marry.

“The problem certainly exists but it is not on a large scale. It will need time but the solutions are there and I will find them.”

Father Lombardi also denied that these were the Pope’s exact words.

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