VATICAN CITY (CNS): The Vatican has denied a report that Pope Paul VI wanted to sell the Pieta, the famous sculpture by Michelangelo, and give the proceeds to the world’s poor.
The Italian magazine Diario reported that a month before his death in 1978, the pope met with a French antiquities dealer, Daniel Wildenstein, to explore the possibility of such a sale. Mr Wildenstein, now dead, described the meeting in his recently published memoirs.
During their meeting, the pope allegedly expressed his anguish at global poverty and worried that people thought he and others at the Vatican were living in opulence.
Diario said the episode, recounted in the French edition of Mr Wildenstein’s memoirs, was omitted from the Italian edition because of Vatican pressure.
“The report is without foundation,” Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said on February 1.
The spokesman recalled that it was Pope Paul VI who, after the Pieta was exhibited in the United States in 1964, gave instructions that the statue could not leave the Vatican without a special papal permit.