Benoit Says en Venise

When the Pope visits Venice, all is not quite serene in La Serenissima.  It’s Italy, after all, so there was some squabbling:  Venice’s 425 gondoliers argued over who should have the honor of ferrying the pontiff on the short hop across the Grand Canal from Piazza San Marco to the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute (aka Our Lady of Good Health).  The politicking was embarrassing even by Italian standards:

“Basta!  It’s a shame the pope can’t row the gondola himself, otherwise I would have given him an oar and he could have gone himself,” said Aldo Reato, head of the gondoliers.  “We’ve never had a protocol on who should be used on prestigious occasions like this one.  Now is a good time to draw one up.”

Finally, four rowers were chosen.

Bruno and Francesco Dei Rossi are brothers whose father Albino rowed late pope John Paul II during his visit in 1985.  The other pair, Gianpaolo D’Este and Igor Vignotto, are two famous contestants in Venice regattas.

“It’s been two days that I haven’t managed to sleep. It’s a huge responsibility,” Bruno Dei Rossi told reporters.

Vignotto said: “This is very emotional.  I went to confession yesterday.”

At last, the big day arrived.

Benedict glided across the mouth of the Grand Canal in the Doganessa — a gondola traditionally used by the elected rulers of the Venice republic — chatting quietly with Venice Cardinal Angelo Scola.  He was greeted with warm applause at Santa Maria della Salute, where he met with cultural, artistic and economic leaders.

Everybody loves a parade.  Here are some images:

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