Slayings Rock the Vatican

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It reads like a grisly tale ripped from the pages of a thriller: Vice-corporal Cedric Tornay, a 23-year-old noncommissioned officer in the pope's elite Swiss guard, disgruntled by lack of recognition, reprimanded for staying out all night, shot his new commander and the commander's wife before turning the gun on himself. But that was the tragic reality that Vatican City woke up to Tuesday morning, when the sleepy center of Roman Catholicism was rocked by its first murders in 150 years. "It was a fit of madness in a person with very peculiar psychological characteristics," explained Joaquin Navarro-Valls, a papal spokesman.

What changes will be wrought in the world's smallest country by this rude intrusion of urban reality have yet to be seen. But two things are clear: First, the pontiff has lost a very close and trusted aide -- Commander Alois Estermann was with him during the 1981 assassination attempt. Second, this in no way affects the City's conduct of internal affairs: A Vatican magistrate will conduct the investigation without requesting help from Italian authorities, Navarro-Valls said. Some things never change.