As I write this entry, we are coming to the end of an epoch, or that is how the media here are putting it. The Russian news agency TASS apparently carried the news this evening of the Pope’s death, a little prematurely. Most of the TV channels here have been carrying either vigils from St Peter’s, biblical epics or life stories about the current Pope. This man and his position are really the closest thing that Italy has to a monarchy. His, what would appear to be, imminent death will leave Italy and the world without one of its, possibly, most popular religious leaders. He is known as the ‘travelling pontiff’, here, as a result of his large number of visits to countries around the world. Something which has raised a few eyebrows, because it was felt that he was neglecting his role as CEO of the Roman Catholic church. Despite this and even though he is not Italian, he is greatly respected here and, it must be said, represents an institution which is almost as powerful as this country’s government. I have not counted just how many times the ruling parties have changed here during the Pope’s 26 year reign. In addition to his travel record, the Pope also holds the record for the most saints created in the rule of one pontiff.
Hardly a day goes by in Italy without some item in the news about the head of Vatican City. The Pope is a national institution. The Roman Catholic church even gets funded by the tax system, but only if you opt to donate part of your taxes to it and the telly carries rather slick looking advertising designed to encourage you into sending taxes to the Vatican. The Roman Catholic does do some very good work helping the poor and needy throughout the world.
Personally, I feel rather sorry for this gentleman who has had to work until he literally dropped. Recent news coverage has shown him looking very feeble and quite obviously in great pain. You have to admire his level of commitment and seeing someone in this state appear in public is moving.
As to the present Pope’s successor, a current favourite is the present Cardinal of Milan, one Dionigi Tettamanzi who has been playing power games within the church here in an attempt to gain the top spot, or so I have heard. We shall see.
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