Alessandro Piperno

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In class once, I made a disrespectful comment about the pope at the time, John Paul II. I was the only Jewish boy in a Catholic school, and I was sure I’d be given an exemplary punishment.

I was wrong. We were in Rome, the most tolerant place in the world for irreverence toward popes.

Catholics in New York, waiting for Benedict XVI to arrive today in their city, may find this attitude puzzling. But there’s a sonnet by Gioacchino Belli, on the death of Pope Leo XII, that nicely illustrates the Roman’s ambiguous feelings toward His Holiness:

You see the pope’s funeral carriage, he says, weighed down by the magnificence of papal pomp, pass through the city’s narrow streets for the last time.…  Seguir leyendo »