Ten Reasons to Love the Pope!

Inspired by Heresy Corner, and in celebration of Pope Benedict XVI's 85th birthday & the 7th anniversary of his pontificate this week, here are ten, not all together serious reasons why you should break with secular orthodoxy and love the Pope:

1. Julie Burchill hates him. So does Claire Rayner, who is quoted as saying that "in all my years as a campaigner I have never felt such animus against any individual as I do against this creature." Silly woman. That pompous ass Geoffrey Robertson QC has written an entire book about how much he wants to arrest him. And did I mention Peter Tatchell? Anyone who manages to collect such an impressive roll-call of humourless, self-important and tedious enemies must be doing something right.

2. His shoes. Got to love those ruby slippers. They even have their own Facebook page. None of your Prada rubbish, either, as was once inaccurately reported: these are unique, handmade pumps created by a leading traditional craftsman, for His feet only. Is Fr. Kevin envious? Much?

3. His intellectual brilliance. Benedict XVI writes proper books. His intellectual brilliance as a theologian is widely acknowledged. Before being appointed Bishop of Munich and Freising in 1977, he enjoyed a long an successful career as an academic, serving as professor of theology at several German universities, the last being the University of Regensburg. Despite his writing being more generally accessible than the deep philosophical language often used by his predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, he refuses to dumb down, or to compromise his message in an attempt to make it more palatable to the shallow and fashion-obsessed mass media. Many might say that this has been his undoing on more than one occasion, but if nothing else, it's gotta get respect.

4. His clarity. You know where you are with the pope. You can disagree with him if you like, condemn him if you must, but you can't say you don't know what he thinks. What a contrast with the leader of the Anglican communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who may well be very clever but whose thoughtscape is so profoundly complex that it can often seem that even he doesn't quite understand what he's saying.

5. His age. Well into his eighties now, he continues to travel the world, make speeches, write books, learned commentaries, and encyclicals and otherwise keep up a hectic schedule. It's typical of the youth-obsessed culture of today's world that his venerable years are held against him. Surely we should be celebrating the fact that someone well past the usual age of retirement can still make such a huge contribution? In an era of demographic stretch and shrinking pensions, he is an example to us all.

6. The antiquity of his office. Is there not something heart-stoppingly romantic in the very name of Pope, and all its immemorial glories? Macaulay caught it well in 1840:

"No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, and when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre. The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday, when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the pope who crowned Pepin in the eigth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains..."

7. His name. Ratzinger, is a name worthy of Ian Fleming at his most baroque. I can almost hear Shirley Bassey.

8. His preference for traditional forms of worship. He even insisted on saying Mass in Latin during his visit to Britain, despite trendy attempts to strong-arm him into using the vernacular.

9. His moral courage. Not for Ratzinger the easy way out, telling people what they want to hear so as to gain cheap, fleeting popularity. Instead he witnesses to the Tradition that has been entrusted to him. If it offends the Guardian that is no reason to tone down his message. He would be betraying not just his faith but his integrity if he submitted to temporal pressure & substituted popularity for truth. Instead he stands firm. Tony Blair, by contrast, won't even turn up to his own book launch, so scared is he by the prospect of a few unfriendly placards.

10. His linguistic flexibility. Even if you don't like what he's saying, you've got to admire his ability to say it fluently in eighteen different languages!

There are innumerable further reasons to love our holy papa, not least of which, for me, are his penchant for a beer and a Marlborough Light, but I don't want to appear over sycophantic. When John Paul II left us, I thought no one could step into his shoes, but I have loved Benedict XVI's reign-- Ad Multos Annos!!

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