Gay Italians, almost to a man, talk about the pope’s red shoes when Benedict XVI comes up in conversation, which is all the time. Everyone (except for the commander) says that Papa got his shoes at Prada, and when you ask why this matters, they say it proves he’s hypocritically materialistic.
This is one of Rome’s biggest surprises: the ubiquity of rumors that the holy father is one of us. Gay and straight people alike will calmly assert this as a matter of fact, with none of the wishful overconfidence or nervous doubt that dogs West Hollywood gossip about the sex lives of movie stars.
Fabio Canino, Italy’s most popular gay TV personality (a toothy, beefy Graham Norton), opened his show the day Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was chosen pope with a shot of pink smoke emerging from a chimney. “He loves shopping, and I love shopping,” Canino says with a smirk.
Casually, he adds, “Everybody knows he is gay, and his boyfriend is his private secretary.” He Googles “Georg + segretario di Papa” to show me a photo of the dashing blond Monsignor Georg Gänswein, a 50-year-old amateur pilot, tennis player, and former ski instructor, whom the Italian press has compared to George Clooney and Hugh Grant.
The article goes on with entertaining tidbits like this, practically confirming that the pedophile-enabling Prada Pope’s boys are hypocritically partying like it’s Fire Island inside the walls of the Vatican, laughing at all the faithful homo-haters from the safety of their sexual sandbox. More outlandish faggotry after the jump…
Fabio Canino says he received a mysterious invitation a few years ago to lunch at the Vatican with a cardinal. “I walked in,” he remembers, “and I thought the person in front of me was a drag queen, not a cardinal.” He flings his arms up in imitation and cries out, lisping, “Hel-lo, sweetie!”
The prelate, he says, eagerly dished his Vatican colleagues, referring to one black cardinal as “Naomi” (after Naomi Campbell). As Canino tells the story, he called the cardinal a hypocrite and asked how, as a gay man, he could serve this homophobic institution. The cardinal looked at him across the lavish table where they sat and said, “I have everything here.”
According to this amusing 2005 article in The Guardian, insiders view the hunky Gänswein as not only a fashion influence on the Pope, but an ultra-conservative influence and power-mad hanger-on.
He is, like the man he serves, extremely conservative. “I think he is very dangerous,” Daniel Deckers, the author of a biography of Germany’s leading liberal cardinal, Karl Lehmann, said. “He’s part of a small but very powerful group within the Catholic church. He will use his power to push Ratzinger in a certain direction.”
Deckers recalls travelling to Rome to meet Gänswein. “He’s a good guy. He’s very eloquent and can be very charming. But he came right up to me and said: ‘Oh, you don’t like us.’ He referred to himself and Ratzinger as ‘us’, as if the two of them were an institution.”
…Gänswein’s critics even accuse him of turning the Pope into a fashion victim. This summer, Ratzinger and his secretary went on holiday to the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome, as well as to the Italian Alps at Valle D’Aosta. While both men were hiking in the hills, the Pope appeared in public wearing a Nike hat, designer Serengeti sunglasses and a Cartier watch. “This is Gänswein’s style. It’s his handwriting,” one religious affairs writer said. “This is something I don’t understand.”