|Yahoo photos of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel. Imagine|
doing your job in such awesome earthly beauty.
But being Pope, I guess, is just a job.
With Pope Benedict's resignation, the conclave of some 115 cardinals (up to age 80) from around the world will meet in the breathtakingly beautiful Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo at the height of the Renaissance in Western Europe. What lucky fellows (no women among them, yet). I felt such awe when I saw it for the first time. Was I closer to God? I'm not sure. I was as close to a Pope as I ever was or would be, and joined thousands in the square for an Easter mass.
There's nothing holy about the job, in other words. As Pope, you have your supporters and your opponents, those you trust and those who betray you, like Pope Benedict’s butler. A Judas in his midst. Nor are ordinary priests down the bureaucratic line immune to human emotions. One priest recently burnt a picture of Benedict during a Mass, apparently in anger about the resignation. During a Mass!
|Church in Istanbul where Pope John XXIII |
preached for 10 years, while the Vatican's
ambassador to Turkey and Greece.
From here he saved
Jewish people fleeing the Nazi holocaust,
a little-known story of courage and compassion. .
Benedict himself admitted that the job was "difficult" and it sometimes seemed that "the Lord was sleeping." Mother Teresa felt this way at times while serving the poorest of the poor in India. "Where is God?"
For Benedict, the job was more than he wanted to handle. I think Benedict longed simply to be a preacher and teacher of Catholic doctrine to true believers, not the CEO of a complex bureaucracy with multiple secular responsibilities, and scheming underlings. His butler's betrayal might have been the final straw.
A younger, tech-savvy, well-traveled cardinal from Africa or Latin America would be just the ticket for the job in these times. Not that I think those more traditional Cardinals, serving as the search committee, will select such a pope, not yet. The pope will look like them, like the majority of them. Boards tend to clone themselves. They'll need someone tough, however. They'll need a devoted professional who can work 16 hour days, 24/7, with the endurance of a long-distance runner. They'll need someone politically astute, too, even cunning.
It's just a job, after all. . .