Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone claims pontiff's support after criticism over huge penthouse – but Francis's spokesman stays silent
|Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone's apartment will be at least five times bigger|
than the Pope's residence. Photograph: Vatican Pool/Getty Images Europe
It sits atop the roof of an old palazzo in the centre of Rome, surrounded by a broad terrace that affords breathtaking views across the Eternal City to the mountains beyond.
The penthouse apartment at the centre of Paolo Sorrentino's Oscar-winning movie La Grande Bellezza? Or perhaps the chosen retreat of a Forbes-list billionaire?
No. The flat in question is being created in the Vatican for the man who until recently was its most senior official.
While Pope Francis has been exhorting his clergy almost weekly to live lives as simple and frugal as his own, work has been going ahead on a luxurious retirement home for Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone , who stepped down as the Vatican's secretary of state last October.
Reports of an extensive renovation project began to circulate in April. But it was not until last week that an Italian gossip magazine, Chi, published the first photograph of the work being carried out on top of the Palazzo San Carlo, just inside the walls of the city state.
In a message to the newsletters of his former dioceses, Bertone acknowledged that his intended new residence was spacious. But he said that a previous estimate of 700 sq metres (7,500 sq ft) was double the true figure.
The 79-year-old prelate wrote that it was normal for flats in the Vatican's old buildings to be large.
He added that the one on the roof of the Palazzo San Carlo "duly converted (at my own expense) was made available for my temporary use and, after me, someone else will use it".
Even at 350 sq metres, however, the cardinal's new residence would be five times bigger than that of the pope, who lives in a one-bedroomed suite in the nearby Casa Santa Marta. Bertone's successor as secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, has similarly modest accommodation in the same building, which serves as a hotel for visitors to the Vatican.
Until the arrival of Pope Francis, it was normal for the Catholic church's most senior officials to retire to extensive and well-appointed lodgings. But, according to several Italian media accounts, the new pontiff was furious when he discovered the purpose of the work being carried out just a few yards from his own simple quarters.
The daily La Repubblica linked his reaction to a sermon he gave shortly before Easter in which he inveighed against "unctuous, sumptuous, presumptuous" clerics who ought instead to be spurning purely human and material pleasures. Bertone wrote that – on the contrary – he had received an "affectionate telephone call" from the pope just two days after the publication of the first report and that Francis had expressed "his solidarity and disappointment at the attacks directed at me over the apartment".
Asked to comment on the affair, the pope's spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said: "I have nothing to say."
Work being carried out on the building has involved putting scaffolding up four storeys and around the entire penthouse complex.
La Repubblica said the refurbishment involved merging two existing flats: one of between 300 and 400 sq metres previously assigned to the head of the Vatican gendarmerie, and another of around 200 sq metres belonging to a deceased prelate.
In addition, the cardinal would have the use of a terrace area covering a further 100 sq metres.
La Repubblica said that Bertone would share the apartment with three nuns who would take care of the domestic work.
"Recalibration of Free Choice"– Mar 3, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Caroll) - (Subjects: (Old) Souls, Midpoint on 21-12-2012, Shift of Human Consciousness, Black & White vs. Color, 1 - Spirituality (Religions) shifting, Loose a Pope “soon”, 2 - Humans will change react to drama, 3 - Civilizations/Population on Earth, 4 - Alternate energy sources (Geothermal, Tidal (Paddle wheels), Wind), 5 – Financials Institutes/concepts will change (Integrity – Ethical) , 6 - News/Media/TV to change, 7 – Big Pharmaceutical company will collapse “soon”, (Keep people sick), (Integrity – Ethical) 8 – Wars will be over on Earth, Global Unity, … etc.) - (Text version)
“ … 1 - Spirituality (Religions)
Number one: Spirituality. The systems of spiritual design on your planet are starting to change. This is not telling you that certain ones are going to go away. They're simply going to change. Some of the largest spiritual systems, which you would call organized religion on the planet, are shifting. They're going to shift away from that which is authority on the outside to authority on the inside. It will eventually be a different way of worship, slowly changing the rules while keeping the basic doctrine the same.
The doctrine of the Christ has always been to find the God inside. The teachings were clear. The examples of the miracles were given as an example of what humans could do, not to set a man up for worship as a God. So when that has been absorbed, the teaching of the Christ can remain the teaching of the Christ. It simply changes the interpretation.
The teachings of the great prophets of the Middle East (all related to each other) are about unity and love. So once the holy words are redefined with new wisdom, the Human changes, not the words of the prophets. In fact, the prophets become even more divinely inspired and their wisdom becomes even more profound.
You're going to lose a pope soon. I have no clock. Soon to us can mean anything to you. The one who replaces him may surprise you, for his particular organization will be in survival mode at that point in time. That is to say that fewer and fewer are interested in starting the priesthood. Fewer and fewer young people are interested in the organization, and the new pope must make changes to keep his church alive. That means that his organization will remain, but with a more modern look at what truly is before all of you in a new energy. It is not the fall of the church. It is instead the recalibration of the divinity inside that would match the worship that goes on. It's a win-win situation. The new pope will have a difficult time, since the old guard will still be there. There could even be an assassination attempt, such is the way the old energy dies hard. That is number one. Watch for it. It's a change in the way spiritual systems work. It's a realignment of spiritual systems that resound to a stronger truth that is Human driven, rather than prophet driven.…"