VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican is insisting that relations with Italy are on track despite an embarrassing few days which saw the pope chastise Rome's mayor in public and another Vatican official make disparaging remarks about him in private.
Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino drew the Vatican's ire after suggesting in a newspaper interview that Holy See officials wanted him to attend the church's World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Marino, who is in charge of preparations for Francis' big Jubilee Year of Mercy starting in December, attended the final events of Francis' U.S. visit.
Asked en route home if he had invited Marino, Francis said neither he nor anyone from the Philadelphia organizing committee had invited him.
If that weren't enough, Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, the Vatican official who co-sponsored the Philadelphia event, was subsequently caught complaining about Marino during a prank phone call conducted by the radio program "La Zanzara."
Someone from the radio station impersonated Premier Matteo Renzi and drew Paglia out: He complained that Marino's claim had "infuriated Numero Uno" (Francis) and that the Vatican wasn't entirely confident about Marino's ability to handle the Jubilee, during which millions of pilgrims are expected to converge on Rome over 12 months.
On Wednesday, the Vatican spokesman sought to defuse the tensions. The Rev. Federico Lombardi said relations between the Holy See and Italy concerning the Jubilee were fine.
"Affirmations reported from a private conversation, obtained with an unacceptable trick, cannot in any way express the position of the Holy See," he said.
Marino has been under fire at home by a relentless campaign seeking to capitalize on an organized crime investigation and a series of public service failings in the Eternal City. News of Francis' criticism was snapped up by Marino's critics who demanded an accounting of his expenditures.
Marino's office has defended his trip, saying not one cent of public money was spent, and that Marino never suggested that Francis invited him.
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