CNS photo/Paul Haring


CNS photo/Paul Haring

Monday October 14, 2019

Today Pope Francis, 82 — as I reported yesterday was likely — accepted the resignation of Domenico Giani, 57, the Commander of his Vatican City State security force, the Vatican Gendarmes, for the past 16 years (link). (Photos of the two above and left)

Giani will be replaced for the time being by his Vice Commandant, Gianluca Gauzzi Broccoletti, who was named Number 2 on December 15, 2018, who prior to that carried out many of the investigations connected with the two “Vatileaks” scandals.

The explanation given for Giani’s dismissal — for Giani understood that he was being ordered to submit his resignation letter — seems still not to clarify what is really at stake in such a significant change.

One Vatican observer who has followed Vatican affairs for many years told me this evening in Rome that the general atmosphere in the Vatican today is marked by a sort of tension, a feeling of being “under observation” physically (ubiquitous cameras) and electronically (close control of all communications by phone and computer, internal and from within the Vatican to outside the Vatican) and that this development is being blamed on Giani. Also, this source said, the laywoman whose Vatican office was “raided” by the Vatican gendarmes on October 1 was treated with considerable coldness, even asked to take off her heeled shoes so that the heels could be checked for a possible hidden pen drive containing computer files (no such pen drive was found).

But this does not explain the reason for the “raid,” or for the dismissal now of Giani.

Was not Giani acting under orders to develop this type of an allegedly oppressive surveillance atmosphere, and to carry out the October 1 “raid”? Or did he take the initiative completely on his own initiative to create this alleged situation, without other control from above… until today? Then why, suddenly, today? And could not Giani have been asked to adjust some procedures, without firing him after so many years?

Again, why this action to dismiss Giani at this time, with a certain urgency?

Another Vatican observer said to me today that it appeared to him that Giani had, perhaps, become simply “too powerful” in the Vatican because he was “too well-informed” about internal Vatican matters of great sensitivity. But this observer would not, or could not, be more specific.

In the Italian press, some accounts suggest that Giani fell into some sort of trap, that he “slipped on a banana peel” — that is, that he was “set up” so that his actions would give plausible cause for his firing. But no named source has been quoted for this unconfirmed speculation.

So this story, despite the Vatican’s official press releases (see below), remains mysterious.

Here is the October 14, 2019, Vatican Press Release on the matter (link):

October 14, 2019 — Vatican Press Office Communique

“On 2nd October some media outlets published a confidential order, signed by the Commander of the Vatican Gendarmerie, Domenico Giani, concerning the consequences of certain administrative limitations imposed upon Holy See staff members. This publication was prejudicial to the dignity of the people involved and to the image of the Gendarmerie.

“In order to assure the proper serenity to the ongoing investigation, coordinated by the Promoter of Justice and carried out by the Gendarmerie, since the perpetrator of the external circulation of the order — reserved to the staff of the Gendarmerie and of the Pontifical Swiss Guard — remains unknown, and although the Commander bears no personal responsibility in the unfolding of the events, Domenico Giani has tendered his resignation to the Holy Father out of love for the Church and faithfulness to Peter’s Successor.

“In receiving his resignation, the Holy Father conversed at length with Domenico Giani and expressed his appreciation to the Commander for his gesture, an expression of freedom and institutional sensitivity, which honours Commander Giani and the work he has carried out with humility and discretion in the service of the Petrine Ministry and the Holy See. Pope Francis also recalled Domenico Giani’s twenty years of unquestionable faithfulness and loyalty and underlined how, by offering an outstanding witness in many parts of the world, Commander Giani was able to establish and guarantee a lasting atmosphere of ease and security around the Holy Father.

“In his farewell to Domenico Giani, the Holy Father also thanked him for the extreme competence shown in the performance of his many sensitive tasks, also at international level, and for the undisputed professionalism he has brought to the Vatican Gendarmerie.”

Here is the Vatican News version of this story, published in Italian today (Vatican News is now the official Vatican news service; it has been brought into being over the past two years, with the help and advice of the major international, quite secular, and quite expensive, media consulting company, Accenture, link, link, link, link, link, and this rather disturbing link).

The Pope welcomes the resignation of Commander Giani: a gesture that does him honor (link)

The resignation follows the illicit spread of a statement signed by the head of the Vatican Gendarmerie concerning the precautionary suspension from the service of some exponents of Holy See bodies. The appreciation of Pope Francis for the Commander

October 14, 2019

(article unsigned)

Domenico Giani, Commander of the Gendarmerie Corps of the Vatican City State, “handed over his mandate to the Holy Father, in a spirit of love and fidelity to the Church and to the Successor of Peter.” This is what we read in a press release today from the Holy See Press Office.

Giani took this decision — the press release states — “despite not having any subjective responsibility in the matter” of the diffusion by some press organs, last October 2nd, of “a confidential Service Provision, signed by the Commander of the Gendarmerie Corps” concerning “the effects of certain administrative limitations imposed on personnel of the Holy See.” A publication — it is underlined — “highly damaging both the dignity of the persons involved and the image of the Gendarmerie.”

With his resignation, Giani intends to “guarantee the rightful serenity for the continuation of the investigations coordinated by the Promoter of Justice and carried out by personnel of the Corps, as the material author of the disclosure did not emerge at the time outside the service provision,” which also included photos of the persons concerned, and which was addressed exclusively to members of the Gendarmerie and Pontifical Swiss Guard Corps.

“In accepting the resignation” — reads the release — “the Holy Father spoke for a long time with the Commander Giani and expressed his appreciation for this gesture, recognizing in it an expression of freedom and institutional sensitivity, which returns to the honor of the person and service rendered with humility and discretion to the Petrine Ministry and the Holy See. Pope Francis also wanted to remember Giani’s 20 years of unquestioned faithfulness and loyalty and stressed how, by interpreting his own style of testimony in every part of the world, Commander Giani was able to build and guarantee a constant climate of naturalness around the Pope and security.”

“In bidding farewell to Dr. Domenico Giani” — the statement concludes — “the Holy Father also thanked him for the high competence demonstrated in the performance of the many, delicate services, also in the international arena, and for the level of undisputed professionalism to which he brought the Corps of the Gendarmerie.”

Last Saturday, the director of the Vatican Press Office Matteo Bruni, in a statement to Ansa, reported that, for Pope Francis, the seriousness of the “illicit spread” of that service provision “is comparable to a mortal sin, since it is detrimental to the dignity of persons and the principle of the presumption of innocence.”

And here is an interview with Giani published today by Vatican News (link):

Giani: Grateful for having been able to serve the Pope with honor until the last

The Commander of the Gendarmerie, Domenico Giani, emphasizes to the Vatican media gratitude to the Pope for the service he has been able to perform in the Vatican in recent years

By Alessandro Gisotti — Vatican City

A delicate moment, of great personal trial, but lived inwardly with serenity, encouraged by the trust and support of the Holy Father, his family and many collaborators and people who in various ways in these years have known him and appreciated his qualities human and professional. Domenico Giani, Commander of the Gendarmerie Corps, in an interview with the Vatican media, confides in the feelings with which he leaves the service and underlines the gratitude to the Pope who recognized his honor, loyalty and fidelity in his daily work.

After 20 years of service to the Pope and the Holy See at the head of the Gendarmerie Corps, he leaves it in a delicate moment and certainly not easy for her. What are your feelings at this moment?

Domenico Giani: I live this difficult moment with the inner serenity that those who know me know that they have marked my lifestyle even in the face of painful events. I have dedicated 38 years of my life to the institutions, first in Italy, and then for 20 years in the Vatican, to the Roman Pontiff. In these years I have spent all my energies to ensure the service that was entrusted to me. I tried to do it with self-denial and professionalism, but feeling, as the Gospel of two Sundays ago serenely reminds us, that I am simply a “useless servant” who did his small part to the end.

In the press release issued by the Press Room it is underlined that you have resigned while not having “any subjective responsibility” in the affair…

Giani: The recent events have caused serious pain to the Holy Father and this has deeply affected me. Fifteen days have passed since the publication of the document that was sent for internal use exclusively for Gendarmes and Swiss Guards. As indicated in the press release of October 1, an investigation is underway and the persons involved have been reached by an administrative provision. The release of this document, published by some media outlets, has certainly trampled on the dignity of these people. I too, as Commander, felt ashamed of what happened and of the suffering I caused to these people. For this reason, having always said and testified to being ready to sacrifice my life to defend that of the Pope, with this same spirit I made the decision to remit my assignment so as not to damage the image and activity in any way of the Holy Father. And this, assuming that “objective responsibility” that only a commander can feel.

The Pope stressed that both the resignation and the service performed in these years “do honor to his person”. How important is this for you?

Giani: During the talks I had with the Holy Father in these days, I have always felt the paternity that marked the special relationship I had with him, since the beginning of the pontificate, and I think I can say that this was visible to everyone. In these meetings, I have always felt the human suffering of the Holy Father in a shared decision. The Pope, however, also knew some personal hardships that I had been carrying for months and also a desire to devote more time to my family, my wife and my children. I am therefore deeply grateful to the Holy Father because his attesting to my loyalty, honor and fidelity with which I carried out my service helps me to face the future and the new commitments that I will be able to take, within the framework of my competences, with serenity, after this extraordinary experience.

In 20 years the Vatican Gendarmerie has served three Popes. For the media, you are the Pope’s “Guardian Angel” for your role in protecting the person of the Holy Father. What did this unique experience bring you personally?

Giani: I had the honor of serving three Popes. First of all I remember with great emotion St. John Paul II who called me to serve in the Vatican and whom I accompanied up to the last stretch of his life.

I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy the esteem and affection of Benedict XVI. At his side, I dealt with very delicate questions always receiving his appreciation and his trust.

The pontificate of Pope Francis, for his style marked by proximity to people and spontaneity in gestures, was a further great challenge with significant and particular moments: I especially remember his pilgrimage to Lampedusa, the apostolic journey to Brazil for the World Youth Day and the one in the Central African Republic. If I close my eyes, endless scenes from the almost 70 trips sweep past me, of countless pastoral visits to Rome and Italy and of so many private moments with the three pontiffs. Alongside this, I like to recall that, under my command, the Gendarmerie has developed a whole series of charitable activities and service to the least as the Gospel asks us.

What message do you to your men, to the Corps of the Gendarmerie, which you have guided in these difficult years?

Giani: On the occasion of my last meeting with the men, I focused on some qualities that should distinguish our men: discipline, obedience, fraternity, charity and humanity. To this I wish to add unity in fidelity, despite some physiological situations that have caused me understandable sorrows. The Corps, as I have also emphasized to the Holy Father in these days, is healthy and well-prepared. I have always tried, together with my collaborators, to train people who could be good gendarmes and, with the precious help of chaplains, even good Christians. I am sure that those who succeed me in this delicate task will find fertile ground, the same one that I received from the late Commendatore Cibin, to whom I dedicate a deferential memory. One last thought, which is full of my gratitude and my love, goes to my wife Chiara and my children Luca and Laura. They supported a life full of satisfaction but also of great sacrifices and renunciations. Providence, to which I always refer, despite the moment of uncertainty that I am also experiencing, will show us the path that certainly is that of the Lord.

[End, interview with Domenico Giani today in Vatican News]

This evening there was also an interesting presentation in Palazzo Cesi on via della Conciliazione #51, opposite the press office, of a new book by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, in conversation with American journalist Diane Montagna, entitled Christus Vincit: Christ’s Triumph over the Darkness of Our Age (Angelico Press, 2019).

Speakers included Cardinal Raymond Burke, Professor Roberto de Mattei, and Father Gerald Murray.

All the speakers called on Catholics today, especially bishops, to be faithful to the teaching of the faith once handed down, and they praised Bishop Schneider for his courage and fidelity in this task.

I will try to report further on this meeting and this book.

I also intend to ask to speak with Domenico Giani myself in the future, though I am now deeply engaged in other tasks, about which I will be writing in coming days.

Anyone who would wish to support this work is invited to visit this link. All donations, even of $5 or $10, would be very helpful.

(to be continued)

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