Susanna Maiolo, the 25-year old woman who jumped over a security barrier and knocked the Pope to the ground at midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, has received a visit from the Pope’s secretary. Bishop Georg Gaenswein was sent by his holiness to give the mentally ill woman a rosary and tell her the Pope had forgiven her, according to the AP.
But the best part is specifically why he said the 82-year old Pontiff sent him: to show the Pope’s “interest and benevolence.”
Which begs the question — what is his interest? This was the second year in a row that Maiolo jumped the barrier to reach his holiness (she was even wearing the same red (unlucky?) sweatshirt). She claims that in both cases she simply wanted to tell the Pope to “help the weak.” So, perhaps the Pope’s “interest” is in giving her a chance to say whatever she wanted to say. But I doubt it. Maiolo has been treated for psychiatric illness since 2006 and is clearly dangerous. Whatever she wanted from the Pope, it was likely going to involve more than asking him to keep the weak in mind.
No, I think his interest is in, per his own words, showing his “benevolence.” This is akin to a king showing mercy on a subject, an act calculated to resonate with the rest of his subjects. If someone of such power as the Pope can not only forgive but show concern for a mentally ill woman who has twice tried to attack him, what a wonderfully benevolent ruler he must be.
It’s difficult to conceal my disdain for the Church in a situation like this, so I’m not even going to try. If the Pope and his Church were really so benevolent, he would liquidate part of the Holy See’s enormous financial holdings, totalling more than $40 billion in stocks and real estate, and invest it directly in charitable organizations. He’d dismantle the Church’s bloated bureaucracy and free resources to do more truly “benevolent” work. He’d strip the Vatican of its ridiculous gold and jewled ornamentation and turn those resources into working capital to support those in need.
Bottom line: the Pope is the CEO of a massive international corporation, and like any good CEO he has an ear for effective PR. Susan Maiolo handed him his first PR spot of the new year. They ought to put her on the Vatican payroll.