Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Great (Papal) Escape



A rather nice story from Rocco Palmo

Way back when, a friend told me that, as he came to grips with the Vatican fishbowl in the early days of his pontificate, John Paul the Great would slip out of the walls in a Panama hat, trousers and open-necked shirt, discreetly trailed by plainclothes security.

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Pope John Paul II made more than 100 clandestine trips to ski or hike in the Italian mountains and was rarely recognized by others on the slopes, his former secretary said....


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In the winter of 1981, the pope, his secretary and two of his Polish aides decided to make a "getaway" to the mountains from the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo.They packed into a car owned by one of the priests, in order not to raise suspicions, and when they passed the Swiss Guard post one prelate opened wide a newspaper to hide the pontiff in the back seat.Then they drove to the central Italian ski town of Ovindoli without an escort, winding through mountain towns and carefully respecting the speed limits.Once they arrived, they chose a deserted slope and the pope was able to ski all day long. On the way back, the pope smiled and said, "We did it!" It was the first of many such escapes, the papal secretary said....


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One of the first people to recognize the pope was a young cross-country skier, a boy no more than 10 years old, who was lagging behind the rest of his family when he came upon the papal party. He asked them if they had seen his family go by, and one of the priests pointed to the trail.
At that moment, the pope arrived at the bottom of the slope.


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The boy looked astonished, pointed to the pontiff and began yelling, "The pope! The pope!"One of the pope's aides intervened quickly: "What are you saying, silly! You'd better think instead about hurrying up, you're going to lose your group."The boy skied away, and the pope and his friends quickly returned to their car and headed for Rome before the word got out.

1 comment:

fred said...

Reminds me of 'Saving Grace' the film starring Tom Conti. If you haven't seen it, Tom Conti plays the newly elected pope who finds himself locked out of the Vatican. Realising his potential anonymity he nips off into rural Italy and proves that popes are just ordinary, lovely people.