The keys to St Peter's...
During the recent conclave I found two first-rate blogs that are essential to understanding the Vatican.
One is Sandro Magister's blog. Magister is an exceptionally well-informed journalist in Italy, whose blog is posted in Italian and English. He clearly has close personal ties to Cardinal Ruini, and through him to most of the key figures in the Vatican. John Allen, the very fair-minded correspondent from National Catholic Reporter, is the only journalist I'm familiar with who can come close to competing with Magister.
I will be talking more about Magister in a later post, but you must read his post on "Benedict XVI: the pope and his agenda". Magister has been studying Ratzinger for years, and he offers literally an A-Z on what Pope Benedict's plans are likely to be. I would add that he writes very, very well--Magister has better prose in translation English than 99% of the blogs in the English-speaking blogosphere.
The other great blog is Romanitas . This is put together by the same person who put together Papabile, the superb blog on the conclave. Romanitas is very good at reading between the lines of Vatican pronouncements. It seems to be a tradition at the Vatican to send a very high amount of signal traffic indirectly, symbolically, and between the lines.
Romanitas has already picked up on: 1) the pallium that Pope Benedict wore likely symbolizes the pope's commitment to reaching out to the Orthodox, asking no more for reunion than was the case at the end of the first millenium--a position that Ratzinger has explained in his published work. 2) His recent appearance at St Paul's Outside the Walls likely symbolizes a new commitment to evangelization. 3) Finally, Romanitas' language skills appear to be excellent, and he specializes in correcting mistranslations from Latin and Italian that appear in our English press reports--mistranslations that are sometimes crucial.
Magister and Romanitas are two of the best blogs out there on the Vatican at this point, and certainly deserve a bookmark for those interested in Pope Benedict and the Catholic Church.