Authors: Mario Giordano
Lübbe Webnovel is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe GmbH & Co. KG
Copyright © 2011 by Bastei Lübbe GmbH & Co. KG, Cologne, Germany
Written by Mario Giordano, Cologne
Translated by Diana Beate Hellmann, Los Angeles
English version edited by Charlotte Ryland, London
Editors: Friederike Achilles/Jan F. Wielpütz
Artwork: © Dino Franke, Hajo Müller
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Dear brothers and sisters,
When we pray the Nicene Creed we say, »I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life«. The Holy Spirit is God’s might, He makes the Church one with Jesus Christ. He will lead God’s people into an abundance of truth; it is the Holy Spirit Who brings about the wonderful communion of believers in Jesus Christ. True to His nature as giver and gift alike, He is also working within us.
I am painfully aware that there are many believers all over the world who have doubted in recent days whether the Holy Spirit is still working at all in this world, and I know that I am not blameless for this development. I distressed many believers when I resigned from the highest office in the Church. And more than a few feel that, with me, the Church has also turned its back on them.
This is why I am speaking to you today, dear brothers and sisters, to reassure you that the Church is still firmly grounded in faith, and that I am, too. It is not our Lord Jesus Christ who has abandoned you, but a simple human being who realized his weakness in the face of God.
»He brought me out into a spacious place,« it says in Psalm 18:19, and this could also be the title of my life story. But the spacious place to which God is leading us is not only the vastness inside us but also the vastness that lies ahead of us, the vastness of the future. Our Lord brought me out into a spacious place, and in the end he endowed me with the gift of the highest ministry in the Church. For that I am eternally grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ. However, over recent weeks I have come to the painful realization that I am increasingly lacking the strength for this high office. Every human being needs a center to his life, a source of truth and goodness to draw from in the flux and toil of everyday life; the pulsing of a trusted presence, perceptible only with the senses that faith grants us: the presence of Christ, heart of the world.
Strengthened through my faith in Christ, I have decided to step down for the benefit of the Holy Mother Church and to clear the way for a stronger representative of Christ on earth. I made my decision alone before God and without any interference or pressure from outside. It was my personal and free decision. The decision of a weak human being. But the Church is strong and a new pope will be better equipped to lead her.
So as not to burden the Church and my successor with the shadow of my failure before God, I have also decided to withdraw from all ecclesiastical and worldly affairs and to spend the rest of my life in communion with God in a remote monastery. It is from this monastery that I am speaking to you now, dear brothers and sisters, not as a prisoner and not under the influence of any third party. This will, however, be my final public statement. For the protection of the Church and out of respect for the office of the Pope, I will not give any interviews or public statements in the future, nor will I make public appearances. I am asking you, dear brothers and sisters, to respect this decision and to forgive me.
May the Lord be with you.
Courier Online, May 9, 2011
PUZZLING VIDEO MESSAGE FROM FORMER POPE
Author: Peter Adam
ome. In a surprising step, Pope John Paul III, who resigned last week, today gave a brief statement in a video message. The approximately four-minute-long video, which was received this morning via email by Radio Vaticano, aired immediately on Italian public television and was uploaded to the Internet. Within a few hours, it became the third most watched video in the history of YouTube. The video shows former Pope Franz Laurenz in the humble attire of a pastor, sitting at a desk. The only recognizable things in the background are a wooden cross and a window. Hence the exact whereabouts of the former Pope remain unclear. However, the ancient walls in the background fuel speculations that Franz Laurenz is in a monastery on Italian territory.
In the short video, Franz Laurenz appears physically healthy. He speaks freely, in Italian, into the camera. He discounts press speculation that he is being held against his will, but other than that, we don’t learn much. Franz Laurenz does not give a plausible explanation for his resignation. If anything, the speech raises more questions than it answers. Unclear, ponderous, and contradictory in its wording, the speech is likely to fuel the rumors about the former Pope’s alleged mental illness. Other rumors claim that the Pope resigned to forestall the exposure of his longtime love affair with confidante Sophia Eichner. Since the abdication of the Pope, Sophia Eichner has disappeared without a trace. However, Laurenz does not address this matter, either. He simply perplexes believers all over the world with unctuous sermons that are very unlike Pope John Paul III’s usual speeches. It is probable that conspiracy theories will proliferate, and we are left with a stale taste in our mouths just days before the conclave begins. The Vatican is well advised to bring some clarity into the
, unless it wants to bear the consequences of lasting damage to the Church.
May 9, 2011, Rome
hortly after Peter Adam had emailed the article to his office in Hamburg, he left the hotel and walked over to the Vatican. The exercise and the mild spring air lightened his mood instantly. After all, he was still in Rome, in the Eternal City, the city that he loved. The unexpected video that had aired during the
morning news had left him with little time to reflect on his dream of the night before. At some point, he had woken on the floor of his hotel room, naked and freezing, moaning as he struggled to get up. He had tried to recall his dream. Usually these efforts proved futile. He knew that his dreams were always about narrow spaces, darkness and drowning, and had been plaguing him for years. Peter knew precisely why. He knew he had to be careful.
However, this time he also recalled chaotic images of the destruction of St. Peter’s Basilica and the whole Vatican. And he had an astonishingly clear recollection of a tearful voice coming from the radio, including the exact words that it had spoken.
Peter tried to suppress his thoughts of the dream and to focus on his upcoming conversation with Don Luigi. In any case, he believed that dreams were just some sort of digestive process for the brain. The more absurd and the more frightening the dreams were, the clearer the mind was afterwards.
The ringing of his cell phone startled him. He felt almost relieved, and this time didn’t just ignore the call.
»Loretta! I was about to call you.«
»Don’t lie to me.« Her voice sounded upset. »Why haven’t you called me back?«
»I was busy, I had to write an article.«
»What do you think about the whole thing?«
»Are you talking about this video? Weird. Very weird.« Peter continued to walk towards the direction of St. Peter’s Basilica. »I think he’s bullshitting us.«
»I couldn’t have put it better myself,« Loretta replied cynically. »The people at the TV station analyzed the video. You can see cypress trees through the window in the background. I’m telling you, he’s still here, somewhere close by.«
»What do you want, Loretta?«
»Why aren’t you introducing me to your friend Luigi?«
»I’m actually on my way to meet him now.«
»And why the hell aren’t you taking me with you?«
»Please, Loretta. That’s not how these things work. Trust me, as soon as I find something out, you’ll be the first to know. I promise.«
»Just don’t mess with me, darling.«
When he reached St. Peter’s Square, Peter turned left and followed the Vatican walls to the Petrine Gate, an entrance that was less frequented by tourists. As he was walking, Peter touched the fortified walls surrounding Vatican City. He liked the protective wall. Twelve feet wide, sixteen and a half feet high, and eleven thousand two hundred feet long. A battlement built from tuff blocks, flat bricks and travertine, and the only structure in all of Rome to remain free of posters, graffiti, and the ever-present »
Ti amo per sempre!«
The wall felt worn to the touch and utterly smooth wherever the travertine edges protruded. Ancient hooks were mounted in the sienna brown bricks and moss was growing in the cracks. The wall had sixteen gates. Two entrances led to the Vatican Museums, two were walled up, one was barred with an iron door and one was only passable by train. One small door led into a soup kitchen, another gate gave direct access to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and one gate led straight into the Vatican’s underground parking garage.
The main entrance, the Saint Anne Gate, was located next to the Swiss Guards’ barracks. Peter knew that this was the gate where they were currently conducting the strictest controls, and so he decided to use the Petrine Gate next to the Sant’Uffizio. Right behind it was the Campo Santo Teutonico, the German cemetery, which constitutionally was a territorial part of the former
Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation
. If you displayed a rather self-confident and authoritative demeanor, and shouted in a firm voice in German »Zum Campo Santo, bitte!«, you could pass without showing a permit, and enter the Vatican.
However, Peter knew that this trick would not be working today. Not even at the Petrine Gate. Since the resignation of the Pope, the Swiss Guards had tightened their controls at all gates. So Peter showed his ID to the young guard at the gate and, after a long and careful look at it, he stamped the permit and waved Peter through. As he was passing through the gate, Peter saw the Swiss Guard reaching for the telephone; no doubt he was calling his boss.
Peter’s route led him through the Vatican Gardens, past Saint John’s Tower and the heliport and towards a non-descript little house, the Casina del Giardiniere, the former gardener’s house. Secluded from the hustle and bustle, in one of the most tranquil areas of the Vatican, right in the middle of the gardens and within sight of the rose garden and the statue of St. Peter, lived and worked Padre Luigi Gattuso. »Don Luigi«, as they respectfully called him in the Vatican.
One year previously, Peter had interviewed Don Luigi, and the Sicilian Padre seemed to take a liking to him after discovering their mutual penchant for American TV series. In any case, the highly educated Don Luigi had turned into a priceless source when it came to understanding the mysterious and complicated internal mechanisms of the Vatican, and Peter returned the favors by providing the Padre now and then with DVDs of the latest TV series.
Don Luigi, who was the author of more than twenty books that were sold across the world, knew everything about – and everybody in – the Vatican. As a special envoy to the Pope, he was a regular guest in the
Within the Curia, too, the down-to-earth man in his mid-fifties enjoyed a solid reputation. Everybody knew that he was neither a blabbermouth nor a wise guy. Nevertheless, Peter owed quite a lot of insider information to him. Even Peter’s stubborn assertion that he was done with the Catholic Church, and that he did not believe in God, Christ, Maria, Allah, Shiva, nor in any other higher being, had no impact on Luigi’s trust in him. But this was, as Peter suspected, possibly linked to the fact that he regarded Peter as a »case«.
For Don Luigi was the Vatican’s chief exorcist.
It did not slip Peter’s attention that armed members of the Swiss Guards and officers of the papal gendarmerie were patrolling the Vatican grounds; they were everywhere. But nobody stopped him or asked for his permit. On his way, Peter walked past the entrance to the Vatican necropolis, the catacombs below the Vatican, a huge underground cemetery from early Christian times, which was not yet fully explored. In the dank vaults, the first Christians had secretly met when they were still a small group, and persecuted as a cult by Emperor Nero. Thousands of burial places had been carved from the rock, and somewhere down there was also believed to be the true grave of Saint Peter.
Official tours through the Vatican necropolis were rare. Peter had been there only once, with Don Luigi. Normally, access was reserved exclusively for approved archaeologists. Consequently, Peter was amazed to see workers of a mining company. As he walked by the entrance, they were unloading drilling equipment and other tools from a pickup truck. The name of the company was on the pickup truck. »Frater Ingegneria Civile« was written in bold letters, next to a symbol, which looked as if it had been drawn by hand. It was a large circle with a small circle in the middle.
It was a warm day, the air was clear and mild, as it rarely is in Rome. It was spring in the Vatican Gardens and the trees and bushes were in full bloom. The noise of the city faded away to a distant hum. For Peter, there was hardly any other place in this world that felt more removed and more disconnected from reality than this garden, which had once been at the heart of the Western world and which today was still part of a global seat of power. Peter saw some cats strolling alone or in small gangs through the gardens. Close to eighty cats lived within the walls of the Vatican, all tagged with a microchip. They were all the offspring of »Rambo«, an amazingly potent tomcat that a Swiss Guard had found in 2006. Even the Pope had kept one of Rambo’s children, an orange tomcat by the name of
, upon whom the curial officials had bestowed the title of
. For a brief moment, Peter wondered what might have happened to it.
A young nun in a gray habit was waiting for Peter in front of the gardener’s little house. Peter knew by sight all the sisters who helped Don Luigi with his exorcisms, but he had never seen this one before. The habit made it hard to estimate her age, but Peter guessed that she could not be more than in her early thirties. When he took her hand, which was soft and firm at the same time, he saw that her eyes were green and that there was a dark strand of hair under her coif. Her face was a little too wide, her nose a little too broad, but this did not diminish her beauty, nor did the mocking expression that was playing on her lips.
»Mister Adam,« she welcomed him in flawless German, as she looked him straight in the eye. »I am Sister Maria. Padre Luigi is still busy but he wants you to come inside and be a little patient. And you may let go of my hand now.«
»Sorry,« Peter mumbled, hastily withdrawing his hand, hoping that she had failed to notice how he had stared at her chest. The contours of her breasts were more defined under her gray habit than the other sisters’.
Damn it, wipe that smirk off your face!
Sister Maria didn’t seem to take offense at his faux pas. She gave Peter an unforced smile and led him into the simple kitchen of the little house. A rough-hewn wooden table, four simple wooden chairs, electric appliances from the last century and a floor that was covered with tiles, full of cracks. Every time he came here, Peter was amazed by the simple, almost impoverished lifestyle of one the most mystical representatives of the Catholic Church.
There were already people sitting at the wooden table, a mother with her adolescent son, both poorly clad. They spoke in a Neapolitan dialect when Peter greeted them. It didn’t seem to embarrass either one of them that they were sitting here waiting for the exorcist. They acted as if this was nothing more than a visit to the dentist. Peter wondered which of the two was the »case«. He bet it was the pale adolescent in the hooded jacket.
Murmuring sounds came from the adjacent room, at times increasing then decreasing in volume, only interrupted by the grunting and wheezing of a woman. A couple of times, Peter had been allowed to watch Don Luigi doing his work, so he knew the procedure. The prayers, asking the demon for his name, the commands to retreat and not to return. Don Luigi was not a crank. He sent most of the allegedly possessed to doctors and psychiatrists immediately. And often it was the psychiatrists who sent the worst cases back to him. Don Luigi made a clear distinction between illness and curse, and he knew that he had the full support of the Pope. Evil was the price we paid for our free will and the demon was everywhere, even in the Vatican. A census of all known demons had been conducted in 2004 and revealed a total of 1.75 billion. Throughout the course of his life, Don Luigi had cast out close to fifty thousand of them, and he practiced his strange profession as unexcitedly and with as much solemnity as a handyman who was sealing a pipe leak. Don Luigi was a plumber of evil.
Peter sat down on one of the vacant chairs and continued to watch the young nun as she placed a bottle of water and two glasses onto the table.
»Which religious order do you belong to?« Peter asked her, more to break the silence than out of curiosity.
»I am from the Union of the Merciful Sisters of the Blessed Virgin and Dolorous Mother Mary,« she replied, smiling mildly as she saw the baffled look on Peter’s face. »I am a Clemens Sister.«
»I have never seen you here before, Sister.«
»I’ve only been here a short while,« Sister Maria said, pouring some water into their glasses and sitting down opposite him. She looked him over. »I worked in Uganda before coming to do a kind of … internship.«
»An internship with the chief exorcist of the Vatican?« Peter took a sip of his water. »If you cast out all the demons that exist in Africa, there won’t be much left of the black continent.«
She didn’t seem to think this was funny. She just looked at him disapprovingly.
»Have you ever been to Africa?« she asked.
Peter cursed himself; thanks to his remark, she had stopped smiling. The sounds coming from the adjacent room had gotten louder; they could hear sobbing, suppressed gurgling and gasping for breath.
»I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you.«
She didn’t say a word but continued to look him over with steadfast eyes.
»What are you thinking right now?« Peter interrupted the silence.
»Don Luigi has a high opinion of you. I am wondering why.«
They were startled by an obscene and bloodcurdling scream coming from the adjacent room. »
Maledetto! Porrrrrca Madonna!«
There followed a tirade of blasphemous curses occasionally interrupted by Don Luigi’s sonorous and authoritative voice repeating time and again: »Tell me your name! What is your name? Tell me your name!«