Skip to comments.Inside the private life of the Pope
Posted on 11/23/2010 9:33:32 PM PST by Huntress
The ageing actor Peter O'Toole is supposed to have said that his "idea of Paradise is walking from one smoke-filled room into another smoke-filled room and my only exercise is walking behind the coffins of dead friends who took exercise".
In an interview released in book form today, Pope Benedict (83) says that he doesn't use the exercise bike that was set up in the Vatican for him by his former physician.
"I don't get to it at all -- and don't need it at the moment, thank God," says the Pope. Asked if he thinks like Winston Churchill: "No sports!" the Pope replies "Yes!" While he doesn't sport large cigars, he is known to smoke.
So what goes on up there in the Apostolic Palace where the Pope lives? Apparently he finishes his working day at 6pm and retires to his apartment. However, he is not fully finished. He usually has dinner with some of his most important advisors. From 8.45pm as a rule, the Pope has his privacy.
Yet what can he do in his free time? He loves playing the piano but has been denied the company of his beloved cats. It's not like he can pop out to the Borgo Pio beside the Vatican and have a pizza.
Not surprisingly, this academic Pope says he must study and read documents. "There is always a great deal of work left over. But with the papal family, with the four women from the Memores Domini community and the two secretaries, there are meals in common, too; those are moments of relaxation."
Apparently, the Pope sits down with his secretaries and watches the news with them "but sometimes we watch a DVD together as a group".
Pope John Paul II said, not surprisingly, that his favourite film was Schindler's List. What films does this German Pope like? "There is a very beautiful film about St Josephine Bakhita, an African woman, which we watched recently.
"And then we like to watch Don Camillo and Peppone (a TV series about a priest detective)."
So the Pope has a private life which he shares, almost like a little family. "We celebrate Christmas together, listen to the holiday music, and exchange gifts. The feast days of our patron saints are celebrated, and occasionally we also sing Evening Prayer together. So we celebrate feasts together. And then, besides our common meals, there is above all Holy Mass in common in the morning."
So does the Pope get to take off the white robes and chill in jeans and a sweater?
"No," he says. "That is a legacy left to me by the former second secretary of Pope John Paul II, Monsignor Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, who told me: 'The Pope always wore a cassock, and so must you.'"
Asked about his old watch, he replies simply: "It belonged to my sister, who left it to me. When she died, the watch went to me." The Pope says that he does not have a salary or a briefcase. All he owns appears to be a collection of books that he has built up over the years.
The Pope goes on to say that he receives letters from around the world and gifts of money. Asked what he does with the money, he says: "[It is] Not for me personally, but so that I can help others with it. And I also find it very moving that simple people enclose something and tell me, 'I know that you have to help so much, and I want to do a little, too.' In this respect there are all kinds of consolations. And then there are the Wednesday audiences with the individual meetings. Letters arrive from old friends, occasionally visits, too, although of course that has become increasingly difficult."
Many who know the Vatican call it the "gilded cage". Reading what the Pope has to say about living there, it is a simple life, but a limited existence.
Garry O'Sullivan is editor of The Irish Catholic
Memores Domini (mentioned as members od the papal household) are consecrated laity who are members of Communion and Liberation (CL).
CL is a very worthwhile (and growing) movement in the Church.
I read several of Guareschi’s “Don Camillo” novels (a long time ago) and never thought of the priest as a “detective.”
I read them as a teenager and saw the movie. Loved them. Especially the “conversations”between Don Camillio and Our Lord on the crucifix in his church.
I love how anti-Catholic loudmouths like Bill Maher claim that the Pope lives in splendor while children in Africa are starving. By all accounts, it seems that he has a pretty simple existence. John Paul II lived that way, too.
Does contrast quite a bit with popes of past centuries like Leo X, who famously said “God has given us the papacy; let us enjoy it.”
Very interesting post.
As I shave every morning I recall reading that John Paul II would use a razor blade for months before changing it. I try to do the same as a little symbolic sacrifice. I change it oonly when the nicks bleed more than a few minutes.
Ten years ago, my husband shared a meal with Peter O’Toole: a McDonald’s hamburger and a whiskey. Mr. O’Toole pronounced the dinner “wonderful!”
A lovely man.
The was a very interesting novel written in the 1970s by a French author, Jean Raspail, called Camp of the Saints. In the book Raspail describes how a pope was sleeping on straw mat in the Vatican apartments after he had stripped he Vatican bare of all its treasures and sold them to help the poor. Raspail comments that all this money was barely enough to fund the rural development budget of Bangladesh for one year.
In one of the books, Don Camillo goes with a tour group to the Soviet Union. He pretends to be amazed at Soviet "inventions" like having a single spigot with knobs for hot and cold water so you can adjust the temperature (instead of having separate spigots for hot and cold).
I think it was also a “mini-series.” Fernando, the comedian, played Dom Camillo with just the right touch.
The pope doesn’t live as comfortably as Maher does. His is more like a life in a fancy monastery.
I think his name was Fernandel—apparently a very popular actor but had never heard of him before seeing him on TV in Europe (they were playing one of his movies).