A few in Venice will be pope's gondoliers

April 27, 2011 at 6:13 PM
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VENICE, Italy, April 27 (UPI) -- Gondoliers in Venice are to learn this week whether they are one of the lucky few chosen to convey Pope Benedict XVI to the Basilica delle Salute.

Aldo Reato, head of the Bancali Society of Oarmasters, said the group has been "inundated" with applications, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. No more than four of the 425 gondoliers in the city will be needed for the trip from St. Mark's Square to the basilica.

"So many applications from aspiring papal rowers are a pleasure," Reato said. "It shows how attached the oarsmen are to this trade and how excited they are about the pope's visit."

The selections should be announced in two or three days, he said.

The papal visit, scheduled for May 8, already has caused some bickering among the gondoliers. When owners of some of the more decorated craft offered their gondolas, others objected, saying ferrying the pope would add a lot to the worldly value of a boat.

The plan now is to use a municipal gondola, probably the dogaressa, a large craft used for ceremonial trips by local officials. The gondola is so big two oarsmen are normally deployed at each end.

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