No disrespect intended, but did you ever suspect there would be a pair of popes at the very same time? Don’t feel bad: neither did anyone else. We certainly had no idea that two pontiffs would be doing lunch together either. It’s probably a decent thing, given that both men live in same neighborhood, although you’d have to guess that neither is claiming that the place is going to hell in a handbasket — if at all, given the circumstances.
Still, it’s strange, and absolutely precedent-setting, if a thousand years of history mean anything. First, here was Peter and now there’s Francis, one man at a time. Clergymen of several stripes consider it wise, and at least in good taste to spring from the area when a new guy takes over the local pastorate (one example comes to mind). It’s a matter of turning the flock’s attention away from the departee to the new blood, who thereafter will be tending to matters. Along with that, I’ve always thought, was the confusion of having two bosses at once — just like at the office — and the potential for conflicting advice and counsel.
There’s a church a couple of blocks away that was founded less than a generation ago, which then built a whole new structure, as churches will. Two or three years ago, that church was searching for a new pastor, an opening that drew at least 500 candidates. Nifty place to live, so I can understand. The problem, however, is that the founder of the church and long-time pastor has, and will continue, to take his seat near the back of the sanctuary each and every Sunday. Yikes. Consider a couple of thoughts that run through the mind of the guy who will now stand behind the pulpit.
Consider the thoughts of the new pope as he endeavours to guide and inspire a billion and a half congregants around the world with his predecessor just down the road. So wouldn’t you think that there’s a nice, quiet schloss back in Bavaria for #265, with marginal phone service, to reflect for his remaining days?
Yet in this country we address former presidents and many lower officials by the same honorific, right up to the day they summarily croak. And wouldn’t you like to just once see a former office-holder rebuke a suck up for not simply sticking to “mister?” It just seems rather strained to call Bill Clinton “Mr. President,” even though it’s been almost 15 years now since he held that — or any — office.
Even more strained is the title of emeritus — which one local television reporter pronounced, standing in front of the Vatican, no less, as am-mer-eye-tis. I almost choked on my chicken sandwich on that one. But emeritus is now the preface for pope when it comes to Benedict XVI, meaning, you can assume, that he is not the pope, but is still a pope.
Notwithstanding, I like the new guy, if the bio is anywhere close to factual. He stands for the poor and disenfranchised, and has done so for many years. Plus, he has not gotten along all that well with the current leader of his Argentine homeland, which has promise — and whom he gave a kiss when she showed up as his first official guest as pope. That’s all pretty much biblical right there.
But true, all popes have presided surrounded by some of the priciest artwork in the world, and the Roman Catholic Church will never be hurting for cash, despite the impending lawsuits for the sex scandals (our local Cardinal Mahoney can speak to that).
So we’ll have to see. New man with a fine resume, and he did get off to a fine start by paying his hotel bill in person. Now if that emeritus guy who’s not that far away can simply allow Francis to run the show.