Friday, 1 March 2013

Making History

It has happened before, a number of times. But the last time that a pope resigned was in 1415. His name was Celestine V. He was a recluse, who only reluctantly accepted his election. Soon he fled to the mountains, but did not run far enough. His successor, Boniface VIII, afraid of competition, had him caught and imprisoned for the rest of his life. Later, Celestine was declared a saint. Boniface wasn’t. Guess why.
They are strange people, some of those popes.

Recently, I witnessed the farewell afforded Benedict XVI. A tired old man. He took a helicopter to Castel Gandolfo overlooking Lake Albano, where he’ll spend the rest of his life. Behind bars? You never know with popes.  Benedict is a tired old man, yet I doubt Gandolfo is far enough from Vatican to keep him safe. Just 15 miles from Rome. Actually, there is already talk that Gandolfo is only temporary. Soon, the ex-pope will be sequestered in an apartment in Vatican. Easier to keep an eye on him, I suppose.
The farewell was a solemn occasion. Towards the end some 125 cardinals, all decked out in the colour of blood approached the old man. The official princes of the church lined up to kiss the pope’s hand twice (it could have been his ring). Isn’t this pretty much what Judas did just before they arrested his master?
And then something struck me as peculiar.
As the 125 emissaries of Christ approached the departing pope, they took turns to genuflect before the emissary of god. Since the Church teaches that god is omnipresent, when cardinals genuflected before the departing pope Benedict, it looked very much like a divine rite of mutual adoration.
Gods kneeling before gods.

Some gods must be more equal than others, I thought. Probably true. Some years ago, about 2000 or so, the Greeks had the same problem with the gods of Olympus. Some were more important gods than others. Later the Romans followed suit by arranging them in order of importance and placed them on the tallest mountain in Thessaly. A different kind of Olympus. A little like Castel Gandolfo and Vatican.
It seems that the Greeks, the Romans, and now the 125 cardinals from 51 countries had reached the same conclusion. They concluded that some gods are more equal than others. And, well, you might as well play safe and genuflect before them. Until the next god appears. Then they’ll genuflect before him. And so on, and so on.
Of course, neither Vatican nor Gandolfo are mountains, but at least they are hills. Perhaps gods are not as important as they used to be.
On the other hand, we now have many gods to choose from. 125 of them. And one will soon be elevated to the highest throne—the throne of Peter, created by Paul. And all other gods will genuflect before him. Perhaps they’ll also kiss his red loafers.
Why is it that people need gods so much?
As for the complexities of the election of the next pope, try my Headless World—The Vatican Incident. You might actually like it.

PS. Please, don’t forget to write a brief review for Headless World. Your thoughts are important to me.

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