ROME, January 2, 2018
Would Pope Francis say anything about this year’s Vatican nativity scene — which was so clearly meant as a nod to the LGBT lobby — when he paid it a visit on New Year’s Eve?
He spoke not a word of course, but instead blessed it and chuckled as a few dignitaries, responsible for what some have called a “hideous” and “sacrilegious” crèche, gave him a guided tour.
And yet something very eerie and ominous happened that evening.
At exactly the same time as the Pope left St. Peter’s Basilica and walked to the crèche in St. Peter’s Square, a squabble of about 500 seagulls suddenly flew up from behind the basilica and circled around the crèche.
They swarmed above the nativity scene, squawking and squealing for about the exact time it took for the Pope to walk from the basilica to the crèche. They then disappeared into a night sky lit up by an almost full moon.
Many had been wondering what the Pope might say about the nativity scene. Facebook had banned users posting the figure of a naked man in the crèche, and when LifeSite revealed its creators came from Montevergine, a town with close links to Italy’s LGBT community, its sordid nature became clear.
The naked, athletic figure was ostensibly meant to be a poor man, showing one of the seven corporal works of mercy (clothing the naked) while other disturbing figures, in what is normally a scene of holy innocence and purity, showed a dead man covered in a blanket (burying the dead) and what looked like a decapitated head behind iron bars (visiting prisoners).
That the Pope should remain silent about the crèche, which even the Italian police in the square disliked and thought “strange,” is not surprising as he had seen the plans for the crèche weeks ago and had given it his approval.
Also the timely appearance of the seagulls, who scavenge on any filth they can find, is actually not new to St. Peter’s Square during this pontificate.
In the adjoining piazza and around the colonnade, passers-by have been shocked at the degradation and squalor that emerges there at night. The seagulls descend on the headquarters of the Church and pick at rubbish bins, leaving debris strewn across the sidewalks and roads.
The homeless are allowed to bed down under main thoroughfares and archways, on the outskirts of the colonnade and in front of the Holy See press office. Often they are drunk and disorderly, sometimes threatening passing tourists hoping to get a shot of the basilica.
For all of the Pope’s worthy outreach to the poor and the homeless, he hasn’t lifted them up and off the streets, but instead created a culture of homelessness around the Vatican.
Some have called the miserable scene “apocalyptic.”
And yet the general waste and degeneration, the screaming, scavenging birds circling over the Vatican like a dead carcass, is perhaps highly symbolic of this pontificate, one that many see leading the Church in the direction of a kind of death.
And all the time that the degradation and squalor continue in the Church — both physically and morally — no one is really speaking up and coming to her rescue.