Pope forgot his passport, papers say

On their recent trip to Brazil, Pope Benedict and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone did not bring their passports, Brazilian newspapers report, resulting in airline Alitalia being fined for allowing undocumented foreigners travel to Brazil.

A respected Brazilian newspaper columnist insists the pope did not have it with him when he landed in Sao Paulo, but high-ranking officials from the Vatican to Brazil's presidential palace aren't commenting, PR Inside reports.

Merval Pereira, who writes for Rio's O Globo newspaper, reported Tuesday that the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, also showed up in Brazil without his passport.

The two were allowed to enter the country, but Pereira said the government found a way to penalise the oversight without causing a stir. It quietly fined Italian airline Alitalia SpA for allowing the two foreigners to travel without documentation to Brazil.

Pereira did not cite a source for his report, but it came a day after another Brazilian columnist also said the pope arrived in Brazil for his 9-13 May visit without his passport.

On Wednesday, federal police in Sao Paulo who oversee passport control at the airport where the papal plane landed declined comment. Asked about the case, an officer who would not give her name in keeping with department policy said "that information is secret".

According to Pereira, federal police were not sure what to do after the pope was greeted by Silva and authorities learned that Benedict and Bertone did not have their passports. The Brazilians settled on fining Alitalia an undisclosed amount, Pereira reported.

The Nuncio formally protested the fine with Brazil's Foreign Ministry, the columnist said. The foreign ministry on Wednesday said it would not comment.

Reeport:Pope traveled to Brazil without passport (PR Inside, 31/5/07)

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