While waiting for the pope
seated under the vast sky of the dome of Bernini’s basilica
we were aflutter with a baited hope
That he might retire or announce some facilitating sobriquet,
Teasing our sorrow at the aftermath of his disastrous reign.
There was a crowd of clergy
So many red beanies and black mantillas
A flurry of expectation and simultaneous lack, nor a scintilla, of hope
That the pope would stoop from his throne
Or enter the throng on his own two feet.
There was a singular white kamelafkaed clergyman who
On entering the throne room of the western patriarch wandered a bit
Then quietly took his seat, soon to be interrupted by a little red rabbit of
A clerical camerlengo, the bustling butler of the papal people.
He motioned the metropolitan to sit elsewhere.
So from where he was they ambled, the efficient one in front, the slow elegance behind.
When he took his place a little closer to the front of the cardinalatial circle,
The sun sent a beam of amber brilliance gilding his white robe in radiance.
Without guilt he presided in presumed privilege over his turf
Under the Roman roof of the western imperial Church.
And soon the circus began.
The electrical sun almost outdid the natural one,
As the elevated prelate, primatial priest of the pontifical west, Paulo Sesto
Arrived in sartorial and centennial splendor,
All stood, all in awe, and soon in reverence,
As without reference to his expected demise
He spoke from his throne, frail, needing support, but strong in voice and wise,
Wise beyond any possible praeternatural prerogatives.
He had the hierarchical power of unquestioned authority
He spoke of love in fragile, unassailable strength.
Even though there is the ignominy of interference from bureaucrats
Who would preserve the imperial papacy in splendor and myth
Relegating the delegation from the marriageable eastern patriarchate
To the mere preference of the Son,
The triple-tiaraed tetrarch of the four-cornered earth
Sat in subtle soliloquy
With silent adherence of the whole world
To the right of the head of the western rite
To speak for Christ.
His holiness was unassailable.
I am sorry that the present sitter
Has such difficulty commanding such respect.
Benedict XVI might demand “jamais la guerre” when he steps into
The Security Council chamber of the United Nations,
But he must bear the brunt of years of degradation,
Degradation consequent to the mismanagement of recalcitrant and abusive priests,
Resultant upon the shrinkage of respect for the celibate supremacy
Which has not quite lived up to its high calling.
There must be a way that all that millennial magic, made mad
By the media blitz which followed the atrocities,
Might retain the dignity of the petrine preeminence
Without needing large basilicas nor bird beaked crowns of singular audacity
To demand the reverence of human respect.
Could the personal holiness of the elected high-priest
Command the respect needed
To ensure that the voice of Christ be adhered to?
The call to wisdom could encounter capable heads between loving ears
In the faithful who would follow Him, the Lord, anywhere
And whom the pope could easily lead,
If he’d give up the paraphernalia of imperial power.
…and embrace the ones on whom the Son chooses to shine.
Dennis McNally, SJ
20 December 2007