Pope's body language speaks volumes at historic meeting
Published 16/02/2010 | 05:00
THE body language of Pope Benedict when he finally came face to face with the Bishop of Galway, Dr Martin Drennan, does not augur well for the former bible scholar named in the Murphy report.
The habitually aloof Bishop Drennan is eagerly stooping forward to greet the head of the Catholic Church, who has the sole power to remove him from episcopal office.
Note, too, how the usually formal bishop is offering the Pontiff not a steady handshake.
His gesture is not really a handshake at all. It is more like a quick finger-grasping greeting, worthy of a Dail politician.
But look at the even more significant sign of a less than cordial welcome from the Holy Father.
Pope Benedict's frosty stare and searching eyes are those of a boss weighing Bishop Drennan up.
Nor do they appear to be making any show of polite talk in this historic encounter at the Mass in the awesome crypt of St Peter's Basilica at the tomb of St Peter, the first Apostle.
An appropriate attempt to read their inner thoughts might have the makings of a script titled 'The Silence of the Tomb'.
The caption for the pontiff's lips might read: "So you're the guy that has been causing me such trouble."
In response, the media-shy Bishop Drennan might respond: "Forgive me Holy Father -- but I have not sinned."
But at least Pope Benedict got the opportunity of meeting the evasive prelate from the West of Ireland.
In sharp contrast, when Pope Benedict met the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, there was immediate eye contact between them.
The German pontiff, who knew Archbishop Martin from his student days in Rome's Teutonic College and often met the young Dublin priest after he joined the Holy See's diplomatic service, looks like a mentor meeting his former pupil.
Comfortable in each other's presence, they enjoy sharing a hearty handshake and a warm smile. Result: Archbishop Martin, one; Bishop Drennan, nil.
But even more intriguing is how when Cardinal Sean Brady was deferentially offering the Holy Father a two-handed grasp, Pope Benedict is looking distractedly past both the camera and the Primate of All Ireland, while in the background a bemused Archbishop Martin watches the pontiff's body language.
Other unforgettable vignettes at yesterday's Mass were Archbishop of Tuam, Dr Michael Neary, with his head down almost into his prayer book, but his counterpart in Cashel, Archbishop Diarmuid Clifford looking distracted from his prayer book as he curiously peers at a camera from behind his spectacles.
Note, too, the towering posture of the white-haired Noel Treanor, the Bishop of Down and Connor.
Bishop Treanor is tipped to succeed Cardinal Brady when he reaches 75 in three-and-a-half years time.
Even in the crypt of St Peter's, winners and losers can be spotted by the first apostle's successor -- and Bishop Drennan must realise that.