Well, the pope died. No surprises there, but the whole process has nonetheless been kind of sad, even for a non-practicing Jew/born-again atheist like me. Partly because ol' JP wasn't a bad guy, and it's hard to watch a nice old man get older and more frail, particularly when he wields wicked-awesome global power. Partly because I remember being 13 and watching his white smoke fart up a Vatican chimney, and because it happened when I was 13 and the center of the universe, he's sort of been "my" pope. But, it's mostly sad because "Is the pope Polish?" had such a fine lyrical quality to it. It just seems so hard to believe it's no longer a functional tautology. Next thing you know, bears will be asking for the restroom keys at the Klondike Kwik-E Mart. Then what?
I was having problems sleeping tonight, so I sought out the Ambien of online news - I started browsing the bios of the top ranked Cardinals in line for the throne. I have to admit, having had zero interest in the papacy during my pre-adolescence, and having only limited political interest ever since, I seem to have let JP define the role for me in its entirety. I am at the point where I can simply not imagine there being a pope from Colombia. Particularly from that well known little Archdiocese of Medellin. (Tho' "Does the pope smoke dope?" has a ring to it...) I will admit that I'm quite fond of the idea of a third-world pope from, say, Africa, or Honduras. Distributing political power this way seems a little more equitable to whatever socialist leanings I may have, but it still feels somehow wrong.
I'm also not sure about this age thing. As far as my brain is concerned, the pope is old and crooked and little and white-haired. "Date-worthy" should not be a papal attribute. Yet, while browsing the bios, I stopped at not one, but two separate pictures and said to myself, "hm... not bad..." Someone please smack me. This is the New York Times, not People! I don't typically go through the Business section shopping for hotties, so what am I doing on the pope beat thinking "Well, the Honduran guy's pretty dishy. The Austrian looks a little accountant-y, but I'd have a drink with him..." With the very notable exception of Gabriel Byrne playing a priest in Stigmata, holy men are typically Not My Type. What's the deal? The only thing I could defend myself with is that compared to JP, these guys are (relatively) young and virile. And, they both have the chance to become one of the most powerful men in the world. Power is always sexy. Even in a celibate body. Right?
As sort of an aside, I feel compelled to note that the French guy looks a little like Kerry. While I like the idea of having a "Freedom Pope" I don't see him standing a really good chance. I say this because he was born to Jewish parents, and I bet he gets picked apart for flip-flopping.
Anyway, I'm going to go to sleep now. I should have gone to bed earlier, but I couldn't ignore my first motivation to write in months. I think, maybe, I've just missed having an electoral process to bitch about...