October 15, 2020
The Conclave following the funeral and canonisation of Pope Francis had proved long and acrimonious. It was with relief that Vatican officials and the crowds waiting in St Peter’s Square greeted the white smoke. Pope Benedict XVII emerged to a roar of well-wishers. ‘Guten abend’, were his first words to the gathered people of his new diocese.
Gustav Nepomuk Switzerhof had for many years been Professor of Biblical Exegesis at the University of Tubingen, when John Paul II plucked him from academe to be Bishop of Stuttgart. He is best known for his work at the CDF under Joseph Ratzinger.
The election has not been universally acclaimed. He was described, in an unusually frank editorial in the English paper ‘The Tablet’ as ‘a reactionary Rottweiler of the old school’. ‘The Tablet’ ruefully conceded that at 63, Switzerhof could be in office for a considerable time.
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January 21, 2021
The inauguration of Pope Benedict XVII was interrupted today by three American women, claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Switzerhof during his time at the American Nunciature in Washington DC. Though the Swiss Guard speedily removed the struggling women, an orchestrated demonstration with banners and loud hailers broke out in the Square. Order was not restored until Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, came to the microphone, promising a full, free and independent investigation.
‘Pull the other one,’ chanted the enraged women in unison, alluding to the failed investigation of St Francis for homosexual cover-ups. And making it abundantly clear that they had no intention of letting the matter rest. Cardinal Parolin cancelled the inauguration forthwith, pending the results of the investigation. In the interim Swtizerhof is to live in seclusion at Castel Gandolfo, where it is hoped he will be safe.
‘Thank goodness,’ said Parolin privately, ‘that we no longer have a retired pontiff in residence to take up the reins again.’