After the recent trials and – it’s fair to say – tribulations of the Catholic church with its various scandals (cough – gay sex and blackmail), it’s not a big surprise that we have a new Pope. After all the church is a large multinational, and it’s generally accepted that in any corporation the CEO exits stage left to take the incoming flack of any foul misdeeds.
Admittedly, Popes generally don’t resign. Normally, they shuffle off their mortal coil before there’s a new incumbent, but hey! Let’s be Christian about it. Pope Benedict XVI was looking a tad ragged around the edges, and who can blame him. If I’d been in his shoes I’d have retired before I took the job.
If it’s not obvious I should say I’m not a Catholic or a big church goer. In fact I’m an agnostic leaning toward atheist: you can’t help but give up on a god that lets such misery rain daily on his people. And, I didn’t like Benedict XVI, whose motto ‘Cooperators of the truth’ sounds a bit too much like something a member of the Spanish inquisition might have said. Neither did Benedict strike me as being kind, and kindness is, in my view, a prerequisite for being Pope. Benedict also didn’t advocate the use of condoms – in a world that is overpopulated and suffers the horrors of Aids. And Benedict didn’t, even vaguely, think it reasonable that it is a human right to fall in love with whoever you choose. No, he wasn’t the right man for the job, and I’m glad he retired.
So then conclave! All I really know of conclave is from Ron Howard’s ‘Angels & Demons.‘ All those Cardinals locked into the Sistine chapel until a new Pope is elected. Exciting stuff. The world waits until white smoke is seen from the chapel chimney….
The excitement – it happened, fortuitously, during the early evening news – was palpable. Immediately, we switched to a BBC2 special. The commentators told us it was only a short wait until we knew the identity of the new Pope. So, along with the vast crowd in St. Peter’s Square we waited… and waited.
When finally the cameras zoomed into the balcony I was sitting on the edge of my chair bellowing at the cats who’d decided it was a good time for a spat. Luckily, it was a false alarm, and the camera zoomed out again to the restless and excited crowd below.
Then the camera zoomed in again, the white curtains parted, and the Cardinal Protodeacon came out and told us who the new Pope was and the papal name he’d decided to take.
The commentators were floored. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as Pope Francis, and a Jesuit to boot! This was not who they were expecting at all! They were bemused, and you could hear it in their voices, though as all good commentators do, they soon recovered.
The Cardinal Protodeacon went back inside and the curtains closed… and opened again to reveal:
I don’t know a lot about Jesuits except Jesuits are known colloquially as ‘God’s Marines.’ I immediately liked the look and demeanour of Pope Francis. Yes, at 76 he’s quite old. But he doesn’t look or act old, and above all he looks like a kind man. I hope I’m right.
Maybe there is a god, and maybe he’s (or she’s) managed to pay enough attention to this small blue planet to realise we’re in big trouble and badly need some help. Maybe he thought “Yep, it’s time to send in the Marines!”