Saturday, April 09, 2005

Popes and Princes

Almost one person has asked me for my opinion on the Pope's life/death/legacy - a subject which I've not posted about before. Well, OK then.

One of my earliest memories (for some reason) is of watching a news report about the Pope going to visit his would be assassin in prison and forgiving him. I remember being very impressed by that - and I still am.

However, there was much not to like about the man's political and social views, of course. I don't need to go into it. I'll just link to Terry Eagleton's rather good article and nod my head sagely.

I have to say, however, that the most irritating thing about the whole Pope thing over the past few days was not John Paul himself, but the media coverage. I lost track of the number of times I heard some witless correspondent in Rome parroting the ludicrous assertion that the Pope 'brought down Communism'. The idea that the Pope single-handedly brought down the Iron Curtain, rather than the people of the Eastern Bloc, fits snugly into the 'Great Men' view of history that the liberal and conservative media assume to be true, but is, on closer inspection, transparently absurd. Jonathan Steele wrote a good piece about this the other day.

The other big news event of the moment is, of course, the marriage of some numskull Royal to some other numskull. Thankfully the whole thing hasn't been transformed into a media spectacle (unlike the Pope's funeral), and we seem to have been spared the worst of the kind of gushing, reactionary nonsense which characterises the media coverage of most similar kinds of (non) events. The irony is, of course, that this reactionary nonsense is in short supply for utterly reactionary reasons. The Royal wedding has to be low key because (gasp!) the Prince is marrying a divorcee who used to be his bunk-up mistress when he was married to some other moron. This, according to various Archbishops and 'constitutional experts' (pompous, ruddy-faced boors to a man), is rather unseemly behaviour for the hier to the Throne. Hilariously, Charles and whatsername seem to have incorporated this righteous tut-tutting and finger-wagging into the ceremony itself. According to the Guardian, the contrite couple have chosen the 'sternest possible prayer of penitence from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer to be read by themselves and their guests at the blessing of their marriage'. The prayer reads:

"We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, by thought, word and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these misdoings."

... and please don't mash us, bash us, or boil us in a pot.

The Archbishop of Canterbury (a man for whom I have a lot of admiration, usually) has chosen to read, at the service, from the most fire and brimstoney book of the Bible - the Book of Revelation - in order to add to the utter misery of the occasion. After the Archbishop has finished terrifying the congregation with tales of Satanic beasts, the fiery Pit and the agonised screaming of the damned, the happy couple will then flog themselves with birchwood for half an hour, before being chased off down the road by priests with hot pokers.

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