After six popes, 51 years, Vatican photographer hangs up his cameras

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — After having spent 51 years photographing six popes, Arturo Mari has hung up his cameras, retiring as the Vatican’s official photographer.

Mari, the main photographer for L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, entered into retirement without fanfare May 31 at the age of 67.

He began his career at age 16, working for an agency on an assignment to photograph Pope Pius XII wearing a crown and being carried on a gestatorial chair at a beatification ceremony.

He documented Pope John XXIII announcing his plans to convoke the Second Vatican Council.

And he was in St. Peter’s Square in 1981 to capture the image he described as “the photo I truly never would have wanted to take” — Pope John Paul II lying in his secretary’s arms after being shot.

He accompanied Pope Paul VI to the Holy Land in 1964 and has been on every papal trip abroad since. Considering that Mari said he could take up to 3,000 shots at a normal weekly general audience, the trips were a major source of papal images.

In a June 17 interview with Avvenire, the Italian Catholic newspaper, he said that when Pope John Paul went to Argentina in 1982, “I left Rome with 600 rolls (of film) — there weren’t digital cameras then — and, once there, the nuncio had to go out and buy another 200.”

He also told Avvenire that being a papal photographer means being close to the pope, not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually as well.

“Without such a feeling, everything is flat; it becomes a shot anyone could take,” he said.


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