Stories from the world of the SuperPope

Pope Francis as a work of graffiti art by someone identifying themselves as Maupal

The position of Pope has always been full of grandeur, but it has never quite before reached the kind of heights of the superpowered characters seen in the Marvel and DC universes.

But that's now changed as a graffiti artist in Rome has shared their vision of His Holiness with the city, and the Vatican in turn has shared it with the world.

"We share with you a graffiti found in a Roman street near the Vatican," the Pontifical Council for Social Communications from the Holy See shared on Twitter yesterday.

The stylised image of a white caped crusader can be found on a wall just off Borgo Pio, a cobble-stoned street near St Peter's Square.

In typical superhero style, the Pope's fist is extended ahead of as he soars skywards, while in his other hand he carries a black bag emblazoned with the word "Valores" in white letters, Spanish for 'values'.

The artist identified themselves only as Maupal.

The Pope is apparently not just a suitable figure for the world of super-heroes, but he has also reached rock star status.
After appearing on Time Magazine's front page twice in one year, Pope Francis has become the first Pontiff to grace the front cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

The image is one of the His Holiness smiling and waving, and contributing editor Mark Binelli gives the cover picture the subtitle "The times they are a-changin".

In a 7,700 word profile, Mr Binelli interviews several figures on the Pope, including an American Priest from Opus Dei, the editor of a Jesuit magazine, and an unnamed Vatican official who "has worked closely with multiple Popes".

It is peppered with papal jokes, like Pope Francis' line, "May God forgive you for what you've done," delivered to the cardinals after his election, but also digs deeply into the revered figure's past, and examines the reaction to him on the left and right of US politics.

Mr Binelli writes that Pope Francis has had great success "establishing himself as a people's Pope" by doing such things as "eschewing the papal palace for a modest two-room apartment..." and "by publicly scolding church leaders for being 'obsessed' with divisive social issues like gay marriage, birth control and abortion...

"...by devoting much of his first major written teaching to a scathing critique of unchecked free-market capitalism, the Pope revealed his own obsessions to be more in line with the boss's son."

It seems this hero worship is not limited to the present Pope. Someone somewhere may possibly think that Papal Fathers ctually have superpowers, making their vital fluids worth something.

At the weekend, thieves broke into a small church in the Abruzzo mountainous region of Italy, east of Rome, and stole a Reliquary containing a vial of Pope John Paul II's blood.

Custodian Franca Corrieri called the police when she discovered a broken window early on Sunday morning. Upon examining the crime scene, they found the gold reliquary and a crucifix were missing.

The blood will soon become particularly valuable as a relic, as John Paul II whose papacy lasted 27 years, is due to be canonised as a saint in May of this year.

Some of John Paul's blood was preserved after an assassination attempt very nearly killed him in St Peter's Square on 13 May 1981.

It had originally been given to the small church in 2011 by John Paul II's former private secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, as a token of the late pope's affection for the region.

Corrieri was quoted in the Guardian as saying the burglary felt more like a kidnapping than a theft: "In a sense, a person has been stolen."

While plenty of people might love popes and believe them to be so very worthy of veneration that even their blood can be a valuable commodity, others are unhappy with some aspects of His Holiness's recent conduct.

The Italian equivalent of the RSPCA, Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali (ENPA) has criticised the Vatican for continuing the practice of releasing domesticated doves into the air, only to have them attacked by wild birds such as seagulls, ravens or crows.

ENPA was quoted in the Daily Mail as pleading with the Pope to "not use animals and their lives anymore, for these already outdated traditions". The charity said that releasing them in this fashion was like "condemning them to certain death".

Yesterday, after the Pope shared some prayers for the situation in Ukraine, one released dove was pinned up against a wall by a seagull, but the larger bird was left with nothing but a mouthful of feathers as its victim made a speedy escape.

A crow caught the smaller of the two doves as it rested on a windowsill. After withstanding a sustained pecking attack, the victim managed to get away, much to the relief of the St Peter's Square crowds.

The release of the doves marked the conclusion of the Vatican's annual Caravan of Peace event.

Last year one of the doves was attacked by a gull, while in 2012 they chose to fly back into the Apostolic Apartments.

"Animals born in captivity, not being wild animals, aren't able to recognise predators... and are thus incapable of fleeing from possible dangerous situations," ENPA said, and announced that it was launching a petition to engage the pope's attention on the matter.

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