Photo Credit: Max Rossi/ReutersBy John Hooper. Pope Francis will fly out of Rome on Monday, leaving behind the latest controversy to engulf the Holy See – a slew of gay sex claims, denied by the pope’s spokesman, against the man Francis chose to be his representative at the Vatican bank.
On 15 June, the pope appointed Monsignor Battista Ricca, an Italian cleric and former Vatican diplomat, to be “prelate” of the bank, formally known as the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR). As such, Ricca is entitled to attend meetings of both the bodies that oversee the scandal-ridden IOR’s operations – its board and a five-strong commission of cardinals. The prelate can also demand to see any document he cares to inspect.
According to the latest edition of the weekly news magazine L’Espresso, Ricca has a past punctuated with scandal. Its report, which the pope’s spokesman branded as “not trustworthy”, claimed Ricca lived more or less openly with a Swiss army officer while at the Holy See’s nunciature (embassy) in Uruguay. It said he arrived with his lover and, while running the post between nuncios, provided him with both accommodation and a job.
The weekly magazine said Ricca was once beaten up in a gay bar in Montevideo and that, when the lift at the nunciature broke down in the night, firefighters called to deal with the emergency found him inside with a local rent boy known to police. It said that, after he was transferred to Trinidad and Tobago, that his alleged lover left trunks behind in Uruguay containing his effects. When they were opened later, they were found to contain a pistol, large numbers of prophylactics and sizeable quantities of pornography, the magazine said. Ricca has not made any comment on the allegations. Read more from this story HERE.
By John Lyons and Loretta Chao. Thousands of young Catholics streamed into this seaside city anticipating the expected arrival on Monday of Pope Francis, who is making his first major overseas trip as pontiff to a country convulsed lately by mass student protests and seen as crucial to the future of the church.
Born in neighboring Argentina, the 76-year-old Jesuit is the first Latin American pope and many here are treating the trip as his triumphant homecoming to a region that now accounts for some 39% of Catholics world-wide. Hawkers along Copacabana beach, where an enormous stage was going up, sold bright yellow Brazil soccer jerseys with “Francis” on the back.
“A lot of people decided to come because the pope is Latin American,” said Cesar Jaya, a 20-year-old Ecuadorean Catholic who had just arrived in Brazil, and was posing for photos with friends and an Ecuadorean flag on Copacabana beach. “It’s our continent, he’s our pope.”
The enthusiasm inspired by Pope Francis was easy to see along Copacabana on Sunday. But this Brazilian city famous for its giant statue of Jesus looking down from a cliff-top also underscores the challenges facing the church in Latin America, and specifically Brazil—long known as the world’s biggest Catholic country.
Evangelical Protestant groups have made big inroads, and the country has become more secular amid economic growth. A Datafolha poll released Sunday showed that 57% of Brazilians call themselves Catholic today, compared with 75% in 1994. Read more from this story HERE.