News Analysis

Monday 15 September 2014

Lise Hand: Cardinal plays saint but he could've been Pope Patrick

Published 16/03/2013 | 05:00

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Pope Francis merchandise including rosary beads and prayer cards.

IT was the morning after the election night before, and our own Cardinal Sean Brady was still buzzing like a kid on Christmas morning after all the excitement of his first conclave. He was particularly enthusiastic about the choice of Francis as the moniker of his new boss.

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However, he was stopped in his tracks during the press conference in the Irish College by a question as to what his own choice of papal name would've been, had the Holy Spirit picked the All Ireland Primate for the gig.

"I'd enough to contend with, without thinking about those things!" spluttered Cardinal Sean.

Now far be it from this humble sinner to accuse His Eminence of telling porkies, but it's highly unlikely that any of the Sistine 115 didn't indulge in a lengthy mull over the selection of a holy handle.

So what would be most likely moniker in the back of Sean Brady's mind? Pope Patrick would be the obvious choice, given that he's credited for being the first bishop of Armagh.

Though he could've really broken with tradition and picked Bridget. After all, the new Pope's middle name is Mario, or Mary.

Francis leads team a merry dance by veering off script

No doubt about it, when it comes to the serious art of spin, the lads in the Holy See Press Office make our lot in the bunkers of Government Buildings look like piffling amateurs.

The debonair Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi and his team of translators have been working flat-out since Wednesday to emphasise (in Italian, English and Spanish) the flock-friendly side of Pope Francis.

At the daily press briefing yesterday afternoon, Fr Lombardi (inset) went into great detail about the Papa's first full day in the job. "He arrived late into the dining room (in the residence of Santa Marta), but he just goes around and finds a place at the table. There's no place of honour for him," he explained.

He went on to describe how on Thursday morning, Pope Francis paid his bill in his guesthouse and how he chatted to all the staff: "He remembered all their names, asking them how were their wives or sons or mothers. Everybody was crying."

And it was fire-and-brimstone for reporters who had the temerity to raise the stories about his actions (or lack thereof) during Argentina's "Dirty War" in which 30,000 people died or disappeared from 1976 to 1983.

His role in the arrest of two young Jesuits, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics, who were taken to a notorious torture centre by the brutal right-wing junta, has come under intense scrutiny.

"The accusations come from parts of the anti-clerical left to attack the church and must be denied," blasted Fr Lombardi.

But despite the spin, there are definite signs that this Pope is a bit of a character. He's already giving his speech-writers the willies by going off script at every opportunity.

"He adds all kinds of things as he goes along," the spokesman said diplomatically yesterday.

He also prefers the bus to his limo, and has a penchant for going walkabout in public, which is rattling his security detail.

But most intriguingly, Pope Francis apparently likes to dance a Tango. Now THAT'S an image for the souvenir stalls!

Scola conspiracy is white smoke without fire

There were comedy scenes in the media centre on Wednesday night when the white smoke caught many hacks on the hop. According to one amused spectator, an audible gasp was followed by shrieking Italian reporters running pell-mell for the door, shouting 'Scola! Scola!'.

Nobody outside the conclave had a clue, of course, as was evidenced when Cardinal Bergoglio appeared on the balcony.

Milan cardinal Angelo Scola had been the hot favourite among many Vaticanistas, though. But his name had cropped up in one of the more spectacular Dan Brown-style conspiracies surrounding the murky affair of Wikileaks. This one involved an anonymous memo, written in German and passed along to Benedict XVI by a retired Vatican cardinal, which was paraded in an Italian newspaper as proof of a sensational "plot to kill the pope." 'Il Fatto Quotidiano' claimed to relay private remarks made by Cardinal Paolo Romeo of Palermo, Sicily, during a trip to China, in which Romero allegedly said Benedict XVI would be dead within the year and replaced with a top Italian cardinal. The name of that cardinal? Angelo Scola.

Golly, no wonder the mother of another favourite candidate, Austria's Christoph Schoenborn said earlier this week that she fervently hoped her son wouldn't be elected pope. "Christoph would not be up to the bitchiness in the Vatican," she said.

Souvenir stalls show Benedict is forgotten but not gone

Before the ink had quite dried on the new Pontiff's job contract, the stalls of papal geegaws dotted around St Peter's Square were beginning to fill with all sorts of tat – sorry, souvenirs – of the bespectacled visage of Pope Francis: rosary beads, Mass cards and the like.

However, a closer inspection of the rosary bead tub reveals that the round photo of the new guy waving from the balcony had been carefully stuck on top of a picture of his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

It's a reminder that the German Shepherd-in-Chief never captured the affections of his flock, though it would've been tough for anyone to follow papal rock star John Paul II.

To underline this point, on the other side of the tub is a sticker of the Polish hero. And what's more, according to one overjoyed stall-holder yesterday, his Pope Francis fridge-magnets sold out instantly.

Poor Benny. To borrow the immortal phrase of the late Con Houlihan, he's forgotten, but not gone.

Irish Independent

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