Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus Papam: Benedict XVI

Today is a holiday in Venezuela, when we commemorate the initial uprising of Caracas (rather a palace coup) in 1810 which started our painful road to independence. The opportunity always cherished by politicians to pronounce silly discourses and make cadenas will be shot as the Vatican gave a true show today.

White smoke cloud, bells ringing, people running in the streets of Rome towards Saint Peter Square, the expectation for the name, the Swiss Guard arriving, the balconies of Saint Peter filling up to red Cardinals, the arrival of the elder of the conclave to announce in Latin the name of the new Pope (German cardinal Ratzinger) and its chosen name (a surprise by itself), the unfolding of a spectacular cover from the balcony, the new Pope arrival and blessing, an hysterical crowd. You cannot beat that and can only be happy to be at home so you could get to watch the whole show live!

The Catholic Church gives us a lesson again, even to non believers like this blogger: life goes on, a Pope left but a new Pope comes and off we go. Doubts are allowed but there is a road to be walked whether we like it or not. No wonder the Church has survived so long and political movements have floundered no matter what. It is a mystery as to how a group of old men manage to renew themselves, to hold such a power over the soul of so many people.

Caveat emptor

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PS: added after lunch

It is not always that I can indulge in some non Venezuelan comments. But after all, whether we like it or not, the Catholic Church is everyone's business, at least in the Western world.

To begin with, I was sure that the new Pope would be at least 75 years old. After such a strong Papacy as John Paul II, the Church needed a transition period. By putting Ratzinger at the helm it was getting many things at once: a transition Pope, a continuity to John Paul II actions, a new Pope that linked even furhter in the past (Benedict XVI was made Cardinal by Paul VI), a further opening to the world by not coming back to the Italian Popes while still remaining close to Italy.

Ratzinger, as grating as he was, is certainly fit for the job. More impressive than him speaking several languages, is his fluency in Italian, the Church basic business language. Like any modern man, he adopted the practical language of his business and made it his. Just as smart people in the West make English their basic day to day language without giving up their native tongue. I am sure that Ratzinger on occasion must read Goethe aloud for pleasure.

It was not the time for a non European Pope. Europe has actually become a land of mission as religion is fast receding in front of secular values. But next conclave will be different. During the next few years the Cardinals and the rest of the clergy will have to reconsider their role, a new aggiornamiento, perhaps as big as the last Vatican Council three decades ago. But that new Chuch will be developped by his succesor, who then might well be an American (and by American I mean as usual all those from Bering to Patagonia). Expect a short papacy, and then a young new Pope with a clear road ahead. And by chosing his name Ratzinger has clearly shown that he might be the man of the hour. Not to mention that he might be the best thing to happen to Germany in decades :-)

We will see, and we can be sure that it will be interesting to follow.

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