Pope says sorry for latest Vatican scandals

Pope Francis apologized on Wednesday on behalf of the Catholic Church for a series of scandals which have recently shaken the city of Rome and the Vatican.

Pope says sorry for latest Vatican scandals
Pope Francis arrives for his weekly general audience at St Peter's square on Wednesday. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

The Vatican has been the focus of several controversies including the coming out of a gay priest and the leak of a controversial letter, while the pontiff himself ended up in the headlines for a gaffe which helped oust Rome's mayor.

“I want, in the name of the Church, to ask forgiveness for the scandals which have recently hit Rome and the Vatican. I ask you for forgiveness,” Francis said at the start of his weekly general audience on Saint Peter's Square.

“It is inevitable that scandals happen, but 'woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!'” he said, quoting a passage from the Bible.

Vatican expert Joshua McElwee writing in the National Catholic Reporter described it as an “extraordinary step”.

The 78-year-old has been presiding over a three-week global council of cardinals and bishops, where debates over the Church's teachings on the family have been overshadowed by tales of Machivellian plots and betrayal.

The leak of a private letter from rebellious cardinals has revived a cloak-and-dagger atmosphere likened Tuesday to the “Vatileaks” scandal in 2012, when Pope Benedict XVI's butler revealed fierce infighting in the highest echelons of the Church and allegations of serious fraud in the running of the city.

“There is growing concern at the Vatican over the multiplication of scandals and a return of the 'Vatileaks' syndrome,a climate of revelations, suspicion and rumours of a 'gay lobby' that helped convince Benedict XVI to resign in 2013,” religious watcher John Thavis said on his blog following the pope's mea culpa.

Francis may hope that his wide-sweeping apology will shame schemers in the centuries-old institution.

Rumours, accusations, denials

Vatican analyst Massimo Franco wrote in the Corriere della Sera daily that it appeared there was a bid to “recreate the climate of Vatileaks… an operation that's been planned for some time, and which aims at discrediting not the synod but the two years of the Argentinian pope”.

The council was overshadowed from the start by the surprise declaration of a Polish priest employed as a senior official at the Vatican that he was a practising homosexual.

Krzystof Charamsa was immediately fired but the coming out added fuel to a fire already raging between conservative and liberal wings of the Church over the divisive issue of its relationship to gay believers.

The pontiff was also drawn into the murky world of Italian politics this month after pointedly denying Rome's mayor Ignazio Marino had been invited on a papal trip to the states.

The perceived put-down was seen by many to have contributed to Marino's forced resignation last week.

Since his election in 2013, Francis has apologised on behalf of the Church to sex abuse survivors, for the persecution of protestants in northern Italy, and for complicity in the oppression of Latin Americans during the colonial wars.

His predecessor Benedict XVI was famously forced to say sorry to Muslims around the world after a speech in 2006 which sparked protests and violence in several countries.

But John Paul II made the most famous pleas for forgiveness, apologizing for the Church's silence during the Holocaust, the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Church's involvement in the African slave trade and the persecution of Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei – imprisoned for insisting the earth orbited the sun.


Body of missing American tourist found in Rome’s River Tiber

The body of a missing 21-year-old tourist was found in the River Tiber on Thursday morning, according to media reports.

Body of missing American tourist found in Rome's River Tiber

Elijah Oliphant, from Dallas, Texas, was on holiday with his family in Rome when he went missing several days ago.

Oliphant’s parents reported his disappearance after he left his hotel room shortly after midnight on May 24th and did not return.

Hotel security footage showed him leaving the premises wearing a white undershirt and pyjama bottoms, which he was wearing when he was found.

Oliphant’s corpse was reportedly spotted by passersby near the Ponte Sisto bridge in Rome’s Trastevere district around 10am on Thursday morning. His body was positively identified by his parents.

Members of the fire brigade and river police who recovered the body say there were no obvious signs of violence, but an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death. Trastevere police are reportedly investigating the matter.

The Oliphant family had arrived in Rome for a holiday on May 23rd. When Elijah went missing the following day, his parents launched an urgent appeal to help find their son.

His disappearance was featured on the missing persons television show, Chi l’ha visto (‘Who’s seen them?’) on May 25th.

Several foreigners have been found drowned in the Tiber in recent years, though there are no indication that any of the incidents are linked.

In 2016, the body of 19-year-old American student Beau Solomon was recovered from the river.

Rough sleeper Massimo Galioto was charged involuntary manslaughter in the case, but was ultimately acquitted in 2020.

Prosecutors said that Galioto pushed Solomon in the course of a violent argument. Galioto’s defense team acknowledged that the two had argued but said the student had accidentally slipped.

In May 2019, 37-year-old Imen Chatbouri, a former athletics champion from Tunisia, was found dead in the Tiber after a night out. CCTV footage later showed she had been pushed from the Ponte Sisto bridge.

A then-26-year-old man whose advances she had rejected earlier that evening was convicted of her murder in November 2021.