Verona, Italy (FNS)--Joseph Ratzinger, also known as Pope Benedict XVI, was arrested and released early this morning by Italian police near Pescara, Italy, following allegations the Pontiff attempted to engage an undercover police officer in sexual activity in an Autogrill restroom in the City.
The Carabinieri (the Italian National Police), had been staking out a restroom at the Martina Gas Srl, located near the Abruzzo Airport, following complaints over a period of several months.
"Signore Ratzinger was arrested at 0245 hours Thursday morning", reports Ministry of the Interior spokesman Harry Paratestes, "and he was released on his own recognizance pending an appearance before the corte d'assise on a date yet to be determined."
Vatican officials had indicated that the Pontiff was going to be spending Wednesday evening at the Castel Gandolfo, the Papal retreat located just southwest of Rome. Pescara is located almost 100 miles northeast of Rome, on the Adriatic coast.
In a statement released by the ZENIT News Agency, Vatican Spokesman Father Dick Timoneous blasted the Carabinieri for their handling of the investigation and arrest:
"The Holy Father was in no way engaging in immoral activity in that restroom stall. He absolutely maintains that the reason he was speaking to the officer in the next stall through the little hole was because he assumed he was in a confessional. The Holy Father naturally assumed that the man in the next stall was being so...open...as a result of his desire to seek penance, and the laying on of hands that occurred was merely an effort to provide healing to the afflicted."
The owner and several guests at a local club that caters to the gay community were able to recognize Ratzinger from booking photos they were shown by our correspondent on the scene.
"Oh, yes, I know him", Nicolo Velletri-Segni, owner of the Circolo Arci Gay Oasis Club in Pescara told the FNS reporter, "we have seen him in the bathhouse for several events, but we never knew he was involved with the Church. We just assumed he was another politician."
Autogrills, common throughout Italy, are analogous to rest stops on American highways. A typical Autogrill has gasoline, dining, and shopping facilities all in one location.
The word Autogrill, not unlike Xerox, is used throughout Italy as both as a generic term for rest stops and also as a brand, referring to the Autogrill chain of roughly 350 such rest stops located along numerous Italian highways, including the Autostrade.