The pope’s doc

After 31 years as the pope’s personal physician, gastroenterologist Renato Buzzonetti is stepping down in favor of his longtime assistant, cardiologist Patrizio Polisca. A couple of years back, Buzzonetti firmly denied controversial speculation that he had cooperated in euthanizing his patient, Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican’s Big Bang

Turns out the Catholic Church has given its blessing to Switzerland’s CERN nuclear physics laboratory, which provides antimatter for the Vatican bomb plot in Angels and Demons, but in reality serves as a site of advanced research into the origins of the universe. No surprise, actually, when you consider that the Big Bang itself was originally the hypothesis of a Belgian priest.

The John Paul letters (ctd.)

A story that the Italian press slyly hinted might contain an element of scandal now looks to be merely another window on the rich and eventful life of John Paul II.

The Pope’s paper and the bishops

The Brazilian archbishop criticized on the front page of L’Osservatore Romano in March for excommunicating doctors who performed an abortion on a 9-year old rape victim says the official Vatican newspaper won’t publish his rebuttal. In a related note, today’s edition of the paper includes a statement denying any disagreement with U.S. bishops over the gravity of abortion, particularly in connection with Barack Obama.

The lama from Granada

Unusual story from Spain, about a young man identified in infancy as the reincarnation of a Tibetan Buddhist leader, who has abandoned the monastic life for film school in Madrid.

The John Paul letters

Italian media report that the Vatican is delaying the beatification of Pope John Paul II while officials read through hundreds of letters he wrote to a longtime Polish friend, Wanda Poltawska. No suggestion of any scandal, though the headline writers probably won’t mind you if readers infer one.


Looking ahead to World Communications Day this Sunday, Pope Benedict appealed to “all those who access cyberspace to be careful to maintain and promote a culture of respect, dialogue and authentic friendship where the values of truth, harmony and understanding can flourish.” In other words, no more flame wars. The pope did not, however, mention the Vatican’s new Pope2you Website, which is apparently aimed at younger users and will reportedly feature custom-made applications for the iPhone. Looks like Benedict was serious when he vowed in March that the Vatican would “pay greater attention” to the Internet.

Flight of rhetoric

Reporters on this morning’s papal flight to Jordan were hoping that Pope Benedict would tell them something newsworthy — as he has done more than once in the past — but all they got this time was peace and love.

Inspector Chaput?

Word is that Denver’s outspokenly orthodox Archbishop Charles Chaput has been to chosen to help lead a Vatican-ordered investigation of the controversial Legion of Christ. If so, that ought to undercut any journalistic scenarios of a liberal-conservative showdown.

Damning with faint raves

The makers of Angels and Demons may have been hoping for condemnation by the Vatican, but instead, the pope’s newspaper calls the movie “gripping” and “splendid” (sort of). If this tactic works, maybe they’ll reissue the Index in the form of a top-ten list.

Swiss Miss?

Ever since she was a young girl, she dreamed of joining the elite ceremonial guard in charge of protecting the pope. Barred on account of her gender, she disguised herself as a man in order to join. Inevitably, she was exposed — but not before proving her mettle by saving the pontiff’s life, inspiring him finally to open the five-centuries old institution to women. No, not yet. But how long before this story ends up on multiplex screens, or at least basic cable?

The Prince and the Pontiff

Prince Charles and his wife had an audience with Pope Benedict today, and contrary to advance reports in at least one British newspaper, the touchy subject of divorce does not seem to have come up in any form.

“De-baptism”—it didn’t start in Britain

Amid the growing fuss about the “de-baptism” movement in Britain, it’s worth remembering that the always-innovative Italians have been carrying out the procedure (or is it a rite?) for ten years already.

Rome [hearts] Bill Richardson

Who says the American Catholic hierarchy won’t honor Catholic politicians who support abortion rights? New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson will join Santa Fe Archbishop Michael Sheehan in Rome tomorrow, for a lighting of the Coliseum to celebrate New Mexico’s abolition of the death penalty. “The New Mexico delegation will also be present for the Wednesday audience with Pope Benedict XVI.” No word of any face time with the pope. Presumably the governor would not be eager to receive the Pelosi treatment.

Today’s earthquake-related papal fact

Among the many art works and monuments damaged by Monday’s earthquake in central Italy is a medieval church where Pope Celestine V was crowned in 1294, and where he lies buried today. Celestine, who reigned for less than six months, is best known for having resigned from office (though he was apparently not the only pope to do so). Although the Catholic church considers Celestine a saint, some interpretations of Dante’s Inferno argue that the poet consigned the shirker to hell (ironically enough, since his name means “heavenly”).