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Controversy continues over Rome mayor's US trip

Vatican's Monsignor Paglia says pope "furious" with “gate-crashing” Marino.

Tensions between the Vatican and Rome's mayor Ignazio Marino continue following a recorded telephone conversation between Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, the head of the Holy See's Pontifical Council for the Family, and a caller impersonating the Italian premier Matteo Renzi.

During the conversation, which was broadcast on the evening of 29 September on the Radio 24 satirical programme La Zanzara, the fake Renzi questioned Paglia about Marino's contentious trip to Philadelphia where he travelled to join Pope Francis on his historic visit to America.

Paglia replied, not without embarrassment, that Marino's "exploitation" of the World Meeting of Families on 26 September "infuriated Number One [Pope Francis]".

Asked by the Renzi impersonator whether Marino had "gate-crashed" the event, the prelate quickly agreed in the affirmative. "Marino was very insistent on seeing Pope Francis [in Philadelphia] and this annoyed the pope tremendously", said Paglia, adding: "The mayor is a good man, a good person, but nobody on our behalf invited him."

The phone call took place following a terse denial from Pope Francis that he had invited Marino to join him in Philadelphia, in response to a question from a journalist aboard the pontiff's flight back to Rome. I asked the organisers and they didn’t invite him either”, the pope said on 28 September.

The next morning, the director of the Holy See press office Fr Federico Lombardi clarified the situation saying that the journalist should have checked the facts before putting the question to the pontiff "who replied with what he knew." Lombardi also said that there was no need for further contact between the Vatican or the city administration on the matter.

In an interview with Rome daily newspaper Il Messaggero on 22 September before leaving for the US, Marino was quoted as saying: "When in June I was told that they would have the pleasure of my presence in three meetings of the Holy Father in Philadelphia, but above all at the Meeting of Families, I told Monsignor Paglia that I would be very happy to participate in the organisation of the visit."

Marino has since defended his trip, stating that he never said he was invited by Pope Francis. He also said that his presence in the US was to “help Rome” by raising funds for the restoration of city monuments, and pointing out that his travel costs were borne by the Philadelphia city authorities.

On his return to Rome on 28 September Marino issued a video in which he said: "I am fed up of these controversies that are created on purpose to damage the image of Rome. I am also sorry that somebody has bothered the Holy Father, no less, for these motives. I was invited by the mayor of Philadelphia and by the bishop [Paglia] in June."

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