ROME (AP) — Pope Francis on Sunday publicly defended St. John Paul II, condemning as “offensive and baseless” insinuations that recently surfaced about the late pontiff.In remarks to tourists and pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said he was aiming to interpret the feelings of the faithful worldwide by expressing gratitude to the Polish pontiff’s memory.
Days earlier, the Vatican’s media apparatus had described as “slanderous” an audiotape from a purported Roman mobster who insinuated that John Paul would go out looking for underage girls to molest.
The tape was played on an Italian TV program by Pietro Orlandi, brother of Emanuela Orlandi, the teenage daughter of a Vatican employee who lived at the Vatican. The disappearance of the 15-year-old in 1983 is an enduring mystery that has spawned countless theories and so far fruitless investigations in the decades since.
Francis noted that in Sunday’s crowd in the square were pilgrims and other faithful in town to pray at a sanctuary for divine mercy, a quality John Paul stressed often in his papacy, which spanned from 1978 to 2005.
“Confident of interpreting the sentiment of all the faithful of the entire world, I direct a grateful thought to the memory of St. John Paul II, in these days the object of offensive and baseless insinuations,” Francis said, his voice turning stern and his words drawing applause.
Last week, …
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