Vatican may eventually limit visits to the Sistine Chapel

(Pope Benedict XVI leads a special meeting with artists in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican November 21, 2009. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano )

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes turned 500 on Wednesday with the Vatican warning it may eventually limit visitors to protect one of the wonders of Western civilisation.

On October 31, 1512, only 20 years after the discovery of America, Pope Julius II said an evening vespers service to inaugurate the room where Michelangelo toiled for four years, much of it on his back, to finish his ceiling frescoes.

The frescoes immediately became the talk of the town and have since become the talk of the world.

The problem is that it sometimes feels that they have become the walk of the world. The Sistine Chapel is arguably the most visited room in the world.

Pope’s butler fascinated by occult, Free Masons, spies and Vatican scandals

(Start of the trial of Pope Benedict’s former butler Paolo Gabriele (3rd L, in grey), accused of stealing and leaking the pontiff’s personal papers, at the Vatican September 29, 2012. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano)

Pope Benedict’s former butler stole highly sensitive papers the pontiff had marked “to be destroyed” and compromised Vatican security through his actions, the Holy See’s police told his trial on Wednesday.

On the third day of Paolo Gabriele’s trial, testimony depicted a man fascinated by the occult, Masonic lodges, secret services and past Italian and Vatican scandals.

Vatican court to reserve some evidence in butler case for Pope Benedict

(Pope Benedict’s former butler Paolo Gabriele (R), accused of stealing and leaking the pontiff’s personal papers, sits at the start of his trial at the Vatican September 29, 2012. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano)

The court trying Pope Benedict’s former butler on charges of aggravated theft ruled on Saturday that the results of a sensitive separate investigation carried out by cardinals for the pope will not be admitted as trial evidence.

At the first hearing of the long-awaiting trial of Paolo Gabriele, charged with stealing and leaking sensitive papal documents alleging corruption in the Vatican, the court rejected a defense request to include the cardinals’ probe.

“Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” is first record of claim that Christ married, scholar says

(Jesus and the woman of Canaan, Codex Egberti, Fol 35v, dated to between 980 and 993)

An ancient Coptic papyrus whose scribe quotes Jesus referring to “my wife” is the first clear recorded statement of a claim that he was married, the Harvard scholar who unveiled the 1,700-year-old fragment said on Wednesday.

But Karen King, Professor at Harvard Divinity School, said the landmark discovery of the fragment still provided no definitive historical answer to the question of whether Jesus had a spouse.

Pope Benedict to visit Mideast in the shadow of Syria’s civil war

(A poster of Pope Benedict XVI is installed at a highway in the suburbs of Beirut September 12, 2012. Pope Benedict makes a religiously delicate and potentially dangerous trip to Lebanon this weekend to appeal for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East as civil war rages next door in Syria. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi )

Pope Benedict makes a religiously delicate and potentially dangerous trip to Lebanon this weekend to appeal for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East as civil war rages next door in Syria.

The 85-year-old pope, making his 24th international trip and fourth to the Middle East, will spend three days preaching unity among Christians and peace between Christians and Muslims during his time in the Lebanese capital Beirut from Friday to Sunday.

Syrian conflict casts shadow over Pope Benedict’s trip to Lebanon — Vatican envoy

(Workers hang a poster of Pope Benedict XVI in preparation for his arrival for a three-day visit to Lebanon, in Jounieh, north of Beirut September 4, 2012. Pope Benedict XVI will visit Lebanon from September 14-16. REUTERS/ Jamal Saidi)

The civil war in Syria will cast a long shadow on Pope Benedict’s trip to neighboring Lebanon next weekend but the Vatican is “tranquil” about his security after receiving guarantees from the country’s fractious religious groups, the papal envoy to Beirut said on Monday.

Archbishop Gabriele Caccia told Reuters he hoped the situation in Syria would not drown out the main purpose of the trip – to focus attention on the problems and aspirations of the entire Middle East.

Vatican orders butler to stand trial, charges second man in Vatileaks scandal

(Carlo Fusco, lawyer of pope’s personal butler Paolo Gabriele, speaks during a news conference at the Vatican July 21, 2012.  REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)

The Vatican on Monday ordered Pope Benedict’s former butler to stand trial on charges of aggravated theft for leaking documents alleging widespread corruption and for the first time revealed a second man was accused of being involved in the case.

In a 35-page document on a scandal which has rocked the Holy See since butler Paolo Gabriele was arrested last May, the Vatican said he saw himself as an agent of the Holy Spirit.

Pope puts U.S. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen on the road to sainthood

(Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, 1952/Library of Congress)

Pope Benedict put the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, seen as the world’s first televangelist because of his popular programs in the 1950s-1960s in the United States, on the road to sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church on Thursday.

The pope signed a decree recognizing that Sheen lived a life of “heroic virtues”, an early step in the path that can lead to sainthood.

Now a miracle must be attributed for him to be beatified, which is the last step before sainthood.

Vatican accuses media of imitating Dan Brown in Vatileaks reporting

(Writer Dan Brown gestures as he poses during a photocall for the movie "Angels & Demons" at Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome May 3, 2009. REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

The Vatican’s number 2 has accused the media of trying “to imitate Dan Brown” in their coverage of the VatiLeaks scandal and said the Roman Catholic Church’s latest travails were part of the Devil’s attempt to destabilize it.

The interview with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who ranks second only to Pope Benedict in the Vatican’s hierarchy, was the latest attempt at damage control by senior Vatican officials since the leaks scandal began in January.

At the Vatican bank – money, mystery and monsignors

(President of the Vatican bank IOR Ettore Gotti Tedeschi speaks during the presentation of his new book "The Economic Reasons" in downtown Rome February 22, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi )

For a financial institution whose ATMs offer Latin as a language option, whose offices are below the pope’s windows and where tellers work under the gaze of crucifixes, one might assume the Vatican bank would have a dispensation from earthly travails.

But new judicial woes and internal upheavals at the bank, officially known as the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), have raised new hurdles for the Vatican, just as it entered the final stretch of years of efforts to join the international club of financial righteousness.