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Papal exits

by Nicky Gardner


The Holy See and the Italian Republic tussled for years over which country owned one contested section of the Passetto di Borgo. That's the name given to the elevated footpath that links the papal apartments in the Vatican with the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome. That path has been for centuries the exit of last resort for popes in trouble. Now the passetto is to be opened to the public.

If, like us, you are a Vatican watcher, then Pope Benedict’s decision to quit the Petrine Ministry will have raised more than a frisson of excitement. It was a bit of a dampener that Benedict made the announcement to a semicomatose gathering of clerics. It is so passé to do things live in these times when twitter has surely become the favoured medium for making announcements of any note.

In the days that followed, the Pope’s staff cleared away the clutter of papal life, leaving Benedict to enjoy a largely empty diary for the remnant of his tenure at the Vatican. The Pope retired to his Lenten spiritual exercises and we were left wishing we had learnt more Latin at school.

It became clear, on the day that Benedict XVI announced his impending resignation, that all but the most pressing matters of papal business would be shelved for his successor.

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