Rorate Caeli

The Cost of Frugal Living

"The Pope, Square Meters, and Demagoguery"*

Senior Religious Correspondent for La Stampa

Let’s face it: if there is a king, the court cannot be suppressed. Even if he is a king like Pope Francis who says he doesn’t want any signs of regality. Still, the court exists (and how!), even if we will avoid naming names, at least on this occasion. On which we wish to discuss demagoguery and square meters.

A hallway - ground floor of Casa Santa Marta

When there was all the talk about Cardinal Bertone and his 700 square-meters (a space that he continues to deny) it was pointed out that the Pope lives in two rooms at Santa Marta, and the same, or thereabouts, applies to the present Secretary of State, Parolin.

In both images: one of the reception halls in Casa Santa Marta - specific visitors are still welcomed at rooms 
of the Apostolic Palace - or in the sitting rooms of the Pope and his staff's exclusive floor

We don’t wish to defend Cardinal Bertone who knows very well how do that for himself, but want to say something about the comparison with the Pope. It is true that Pope Bergoglio occupies two rooms plus facilities; but in reality the whole floor on which he resides at Santa Marta is reserved for him and the people who look after him. 

Casa Santa Marta's main Eating Hall

In the dining-hall at Santa Marta the space reserved for the papal table is surrounded by a barrier of plants (a place greatly desired by many who try to be present at his table) creating a small private dining-room. Moreover, as a chapel, the Pope has an entire church, the one at Santa Marta. 

Regular waiting service at Casa 
Santa Marta's main Eating Hall
In short, we don’t see much difference between this situation and the one in the Pontifical Apartments, where the Pope would have his own bedroom, a small dining-room, a chapel and a study. When Pope Francis receives visitors he does so in his sitting room, or another room in the residence. In short, he has everything at his disposal.

Pope enjoys yerba mate next to the Virgin of Luján in his private sitting room

What's more, when the work is finished in Bertone’s apartment, the new Secretary of State will move into the service apartment in the Apostolic Palace, which is very big. It was the pontifical apartment up until the beginning of last century, and so it is certainly not two rooms and a kitchen…

Yet it can also be said that most of the Cardinals occupy (pro tempore, not transferable to relatives or nephews) normal apartments, in the Holy Office building or in the piazza della Città Leonina, or on via Rusticucci, or in Vatican City itself. However, if Bertone was forced to search for another place to live, there is a specific reason for this. Cardinal Agostino Casaroli had a very beautiful penthouse built above the Palazzina dell'Arciprete [Apartment Block of the Archpriest] with its use as a refuge for the former Secretaries of State in mind. However, Cardinal Re took it over when he was still the Prefect for the Congregation of Bishops, and he is still there.

Domus Sanctae Marthae, seen from St. Peter's dome

Another very large historic apartment, is the one delegated to the President of the Commission for Cardinals in Vatican City (Cardinal Bertello). It is a historic apartment which was the residence of the lay President, Marquis Sacchetti at the time of Pius XII. Also Cardinal Castillo lived there; he was called by his enemies (not a few in the Vatican) Cardinal Settebagni (Sevenbathrooms) because of the spaciousness of the apartment.
One of the Chapels of the Casa Santa Marta,
the Chapel of the Holy Spirit is Pope Francis' chosen and
de facto papal chapel

In the same building lies the Vatican City Secretary’s apartment, still inexplicably closed (it has been so for a couple of years now) and it is still in the hands of the present Nuncio to the United States, Viganò.

Palace of San Calisto (St. Callistus), next to Santa Maria in Trastevere
The Prefect for the Propaganda Fide, “the Red Pope”, enjoys an extraordinary arrangement, a villa on the Gianicolo [Janiculum hill]. Nonetheless, also some retired or working Cardinals benefit from kilometric-size apartments. They are the ones that have the good fortune of being guests in the “old” wing of St. Callistus, next to Santa Maria in Trastevere. The new wing, built in the ‘20s and ‘30s has big rooms, even if they are badly arranged. The old building instead has princely apartments, as they were thought of in past centuries. No matter, as an old curial fox once noted – they are all things that nobody takes with them…

In and out they go - and they are consigned into the hands of another pilgrim…

[This is the literal title of the piece, "Papa, metri quadri e demagogia" -- 1 m² = 10.76 ft². Source: La Stampa. Translation: Contributor Francesca Romana. It is very important to note that Tosatti is not criticizing His Holiness, far from it, as an experienced journalist and commentator he would never do that, but rather those who make specific comparisons between arrangements. / We in Rorate, in particular, have always considered a very wise decision of Pope Francis to live in Santa Marta, a more recent and comfortable construction, where third parties cannot take advantage of the isolation of the Pope, as it at times happened at the Apostolic Palace.]

In a post of June 25, 2014, we had some thoughts on the irrepressible Spirit of Court and Courtiers in any highly-centralized core power structure:

"Rorate note: We emphasized above what is the essential conclusion: whatever may be the sensibilities of the Pope, what he or any other Pontiff will never be able to end is the spirit of Court life. The spirit of Court life is not related to monarchical or republican sensibilities (it is certainly much stronger in today's White House, for instance, than in the court of Saint Louis), to living in a palace or in a cupboard -- it is a general spirit related to knowing where power lies, and trying to meet the favor of the man in power, most often than not by being as crass as possible in the defense of what the Courtier thinks is his master's preference, whether or not it is so. And if the man in power is truly powerful and centers all major decisions in himself, then the adulation of his Courtiers, and their decisions to meet his favor, become more and more extreme. It falls upon the Sovereign to see that a balance is found -- what is true, in any event, is that, at no moment in the past 60 years, or even earlier in the past century, has there been a greater truly Court-like atmosphere in the Vatican, even if it is a 'Progressive' Court. Because the Court spirit that matters for history is not that of marbles, jewelry, apartments, draperies, tapestries and...butlers, but that of power, misguided flattery, strong decisions, rancor, and tragic overreaching. (Why, we are now reaching the 100th anniversary of a conflict that could have been avoided if these Court-like characteristics had been toned down by more cautious Sovereigns.)"