As we have strolled around in our Florence neighborhood, we often pass through the plaza in front of Holy Cross cathedral (the huge Franciscan church "Santa Croce") where stands a statute of Dante Allegheri (buried in the cathedral). Much of Christianity's concepts of heaven and hell come not from the Bible but from Dante's condemnation of the rich, the powerful, and the church. Here today, in the Vatican in Rome, the 32 year old sculptor Michaelangelo was ordered to spend 7 years painting the immense ceiling of the Sistine chapel: he did not want to do it so the pope - this supposed emissary of Christ - said 'if you don't, I'll send my army and destroy your town (Florence) and kill everyone there. And, I'll excommunicate you. Then Michaelangelo was stiffed on his bill by that pope who ordered the work be done. Nothing in the papacy or the Vatican has anything to do with the life or lessons of Jesus.
The Vatican is packed to the gills with - literally - trillions of dollars worth of art and gold. All in the name of Jesus who said "sell all you have, give it to the poor, and come and follow me". Well, we Christians have done as poor a job of following Christ as could be imagined. It seems our cathedrals are into power and money and control in the name of our Savior who preached freedom from power, money and control.
And, inside this "holy" place we find all sorts of vendors selling things - like this store selling DVDs. Didn't Jesus expressly condemn commerce in the temple?
I rented an audio guide but turned it off when it said that the Popes who sponsored this orgy of opulence say that it was necessary since otherwise the common people could not understand the teachings of Jesus.
I can write it on a corn flake.
Trillions of dollars in wealth while people are hungry.
It's now time to go home. We leave in the morning. In April, when we left 2 months in Paris running our "B&B", it was bittersweet: we were tired but sad to leave. This time it's been a long time without the kids; and Italy - with the spectacular exceptions of the Selvas and the Dolamites - has been a great disappointment.
PS. Here's a photo of St Longino in the Vatican today (Nov 12, 2013). The saint is the Longino in the back.