Francis is paying special attention to the IOR. Benedict did so, as well, when he appointed Ernst von Freyberg as the bank's director in February. But it was already too late, and Freyberg showed little interest in the details.
Francis, on the other hand, issued a hand-written decree in late June to form an investigative committee. Two days later, the chief accountant was arrested and on July 2, the two general directors abruptly resigned. Last Friday, Francis appointed a special commission to advise him directly on economic issues and create more transparency. The pope also appointed a prelate who has access to all bank meetings and reports directly to Francis.
That appointment, though, could prove to be Pope Francis' first mistake. He chose Monsignore Battista Ricca, the former administrator of the Vatican guesthouse, for the job. But the magazine L'Espresso revealed last week that Ricca was transferred to the guesthouse in 2001 for disciplinary reasons, because he was allegedly living with and maintaining a homosexual relationship with a man in the nunciature of Montevideo and was beaten up in a gay bar. So does it exist after all, the "gay lobby" at the Vatican, whose members secure positions for each other? Did the curia deliberately conceal Ricca's past from the pope? These questions will have to remain unanswered for now, but the Ricca appointment could come back to haunt the pope.
Meanwhile, Alessia Giuliani, 42, a chain-smoking resident of Rome, is waiting on St. Peter's Square. She is standing at the obelisk, holding her paparazzi camera with its telephoto lens. It is Wednesday morning, and the weekly general audience is about to begin. Hundreds of thousands of people are flooding into the square -- a sea of smartphones and sunshades.
Giuliani began taking pictures of groups of pilgrims 15 years ago until she eventually became the first woman to join the illustrious circle of papal photographers. Now that Francis has come into office, she needs to use stronger flashes and a larger aperture, because he is darker-skinned than his predecessor. Although she sells more photos now, she hardly has a private life anymore, because Francis often makes spontaneous appearances, so that she has to chase after him.
She looks through her lens and sees Francis on the pope mobile, giving the thumbs up sign. His chief of security lifts children into the vehicle, and Francis distributes kisses, accepts the gift of a jersey from his beloved football club, Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro, and hugs a girl with Down syndrome. He continues in this vein, often for as long as an hour, until the mass begins. "Che spettacolo" -- what a spectacle -- says a Roman woman, as she shakes her head and turns away.
The photographer lowers her camera and says that the scenery is too indistinct. She complains that she hasn't yet been able to capture an image that truly describes the new pope. The longer she watches him, says Giuliani, the more she fears that there could soon be too many images of him -- that his gestures could lose their meaning and his messages become trivial.
How They Preach in Latin America
Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, 65, can hear the cheers from the weekly public mass in his apartment at Santa Anna Gate. He prefers to call it counseling rather than a spectacle, noting that this is how they preach in Latin America.