No post yesterday as I somewhat took the day off! I was to celebrate July 4th by not working but that did not happen – too much important news! – so I decided to not work on Tuesday, and that actually did not happen either as I prepared my radio report for Teresa Tomeo’s “Catholic Connection” and three spots for “At Home with Jim and Joy.”
Pope Francis is supposed to be taking some time off as well but that is not happening as the Vatican would wish. Papal vacations used to be spent in part in northern Italy in the coolness of mountains, etc. and then six to eight weeks at the wonderful papal palace in Castelgandolfo that Pope Francis has eschewed since Day One of his pontificate. Many days of silence as Popes enjoyed some leisure time, working, writing, reading behind the scenes. For Francis, there are no weekly general audiences in July but he is still managing to greet a few groups and send messages or videos out and, in general, stay busy.
He did have one important appointment today and you’ll read about that in the story below.
I can’t stop thinking about the murder of the young American student hours after his arrival in Rome Friday for what should have been a joyful educational experience of a summer study program. Beau Solomon was found in the Tiber River Monday morning and that has been the top story here, especially as details emerge that seem to indicate he was robbed, chased the alleged culprits to an underpass of a Rome bridge, got into a fight and ended up in the Tiber. How he got there and whether he was dead before impact is not known so far.
I have met and known a number of young people over the years in Rome, most of whom are students at Rome study abroad programs. Dozens of American universities have such programs, some for a year, some for a semester and many for the summer. Most college students seem filled with the desire to experience Rome and Italy and European countries and excited to know new cultures, peoples and foods.
And, it seems, new bars and pubs.
Unfortunately, American college students are known here in Italy, as they are at home, for binge drinking. I won’t qualify the students by saying ‘many’, ‘most’ or a ‘majority’ because I do not have any percentages. I would love to use the qualifier “a few”. I have personally seen, on a number of occasions – sad occasions – students who have very obviously imbibed far more than they should have.
So far, indications are that Beau Solomon was not one of those. I am not writing about this because of him. I am writing about this because there is a culture here. The following article will fill you with pain and perhaps even astonishment, maybe even anger: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/03/01/rome-s-deadly-pub-crawls-kill-american-college-student.html
About the legal drinking age in Italy: On the books it seems that the legal age to buy alcohol is 18. Drinking alcohol (a bottle of beer or a glass of wine or shot glass of whiskey) at a coffee bar, one should be 18 and the barista can be responsible – if anyone checks – should the young person be under that age. Ditto for buying a closed bottle and then opening it in the café.
Wine consumption usually starts in families here, at mealtime. If parents allow a teen (or even younger child) to drink wine, it is usually well watered down. Parents can also allow their offspring to have wine in a restaurant but I have to say, I honestly do not see this often.
The main thing to know about laws regarding drinking is that, like all Italian laws, they are enormously complex and convoluted and, for this reason alone, are often simply disregarded.
POPE MEETS FAMILY OF U.S. COLLEGE STUDENT KILLED IN ROME
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday morning met with the parents of an American student who was killed in Rome.
Beau Solomon, a 19-year-old student taking part in a summer study abroad program, was reported missing Friday evening. His body was found in the Tiber River on Monday following an extensive search. A homeless man was arrested in connection with Solomon’s death, with police saying the man was “seriously suspected of aggravated homicide.” (photo ANSA: news.va)
In a statement following the Pope’s meeting with Solomon’s parents, the director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, said Pope Francis expressed his “feelings of deep sympathy and compassion” and “his closeness in prayer to the Lord for the young man who died so tragically.”
Solomon’s parents arrived in Rome on Monday evening. On Tuesday, the U.S. Ambassador to Italy, John Phillips, released a statement saying, “I was saddened to learn of the tragic death of Beau Solomon. My heart goes out to his family and friends. The U.S. Embassy stands ready to provide support to Italian authorities investigating his disappearance and death.”
Associated Press had the following story today:
ROME (AP) — Rome police detained a homeless man on suspicion he pushed a 19-year-old American student into the Tiber River after a fight, as details emerged about Beau Solomon’s final hours in the thick of Rome’s summertime nightlife.
Police took suspect Massimo Galioto, 40, into custody Tuesday, saying he was “seriously suspected of aggravated homicide” in Solomon’s death.
Police said they were looking into the hypothesis that Solomon was robbed, went to the riverbank under a bridge in Trastevere where he got into a scuffle with Galioto, who then pushed him into the Tiber. The police official spoke on condition of anonymity because prosecutors asked that no information be released at this stage.
Police on Monday pulled Solomon’s body from the Tiber a few kilometers (miles) downstream of the Garibaldi Bridge where Galioto’s encampment is located. The student had last been seen early Friday at a nearby pub popular with U.S. students in Trastevere, just hours after arriving in Rome for an exchange program at John Cabot University.
The ANSA news agency said preliminary autopsy results indicated that Solomon had suffered injuries consistent with a fall and with days spent in the water. The police official said investigators were in particular looking to see if he was conscious when he fell in the water.
State-run RAI television on Tuesday interviewed a woman identified as Galioto’s companion, Alessia, who said Solomon had come down the stairs to their settlement along the Tiber early Friday with two people who robbed him. It did not give her last name.
Alessia told RAI that Solomon and Galioto got into a scuffle, with each one pushing the other. It wasn’t immediately clear how Solomon ended up in the water, but the police official said they believed Galioto pushed him.
The site was underneath Garibaldi Bridge, one of the busiest bridges in Rome, which connects the bar-filled Trastevere neighborhood to the other side of Rome’s historic center.
John Cabot, an English-language university in the Italian capital, said it had been alerted by Solomon’s roommate that he had lost contact with Solomon around 1 a.m. Friday and was worried when he didn’t show up for orientation later that day.
The president of John Cabot, Franco Pavoncello, said the school takes maximum measures to keep its students safe on campus and around its residences, using both Italian soldiers and private security forces. But Pavoncello said it was up to Italian authorities to keep people safe on the streets of Rome.
“Nightlife is nightlife,” he said. “It’s not up to the president of John Cabot University to do an evaluation of the dangers of Rome’s nightlife, it’s up to judicial authorities.”
John Cabot is a four-year university located in Trastevere. Solomon, who had just completed his first year as a personal finance major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, had just arrived for John Cabot’s summer program.
One of his brothers, Cole, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Solomon’s body was found with a head wound and blood on his shirt. He added that thousands of dollars were charged to his brother’s credit card after his disappearance. He didn’t immediately respond to AP requests for comment.
Another brother, Jake Solomon, described Beau as an athlete who successfully battled cancer for years as a child.
Italian state TV said charges worth 1,500 euros (about $1,700) were run up Saturday on Solomon’s credit card at a Milan store, hundreds of miles from where he was last seen in Rome.
Comments by Galioto’s companion suggested that the people who stole Solomon’s wallet might have used the credit card, not Galioto.
Without citing sources, ANSA said two Italians claimed to have seen a man throw a person into the Tiber the night that Solomon disappeared. Sky TG24 TV also said witnesses reported seeing someone pushed into the Tiber near Garibaldi Bridge.
On Tuesday, the U.S. ambassador to Italy, John Phillips, pledged his assistance to Italian authorities investigating the death. “My heart goes out to his family and friends,” Phillips said.