How many votes is a photo op with the pope worth?The papal’s influence
ROME – How much weight does an endorsement from a lame-duck pope carry in the upcoming election?
No, not that election – the one to pick the next leader of the Catholic church. Another key ballot is looming even closer, when Italians go to the polls this Sunday to choose a new premier. And with Italy in a solemn mood over the historic resignation of Benedict XVI, the “moral vision” of incumbent Mario Monti may get a boost to the detriment of the flamboyant, scandal-plagued Silvio Berlusconi.
Even though a large majority of Italian Catholics don’t regularly attend Sunday Mass, the Vatican traditionally wields influence on politics in Italy, a country where Christian Democrats held sway for decades. Just about anything the pope does or says is big news. And Pope Benedict XVI has made no secret of his preference for Monti, a practicing Catholic, whom he greeted warmly Saturday in one of his last private audiences with an Italian political leader.
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