Early in Benedict’s pontificate, at least one commentator described him as “Pope of the Internet age.” This was in contrast to John Paul II, who was “Pope of the television age.”
The rationale was intuitive. JPII was charismatic, telegenic, and had an aptitude for dramatic gesture. Ideal for TV. BXVI, in contrast, had none of his predecessor’s visual flair, but he is a talented writer. Ideal for the written word which in 2005 dominated the Internet.
Of course, the Internet has changed a lot in the 8 years since. So much so, that Pope Francis, who has an entirely different style again, could also be characterised as “Pope of the Internet age,” or maybe more specifically, “Pope of the Twitterverse.”
Sandro Magister shows why:
[The oratory typical of Pope Francis] is a concise, simple, conversational oratory, tethered to words or images of immediate communicative impact.
– the image of “God spray,” used by Pope Francis on April 18 to warn against the idea of an impersonal God “that is a bit everywhere but one does not know what it may be”;
– or the image of “babysitter Church,” used on April 17 to stigmatize a Church that only “takes care of children to put them to sleep,” instead of acting as a mother with her children;
– or the formula “satellite Christians,” used on April 22 to brand those Christians who allow their conduct to be dictated by “common sense” and by “worldly prudence,” instead of by Jesus.
Stefania Falasca, an old friend of Bergoglio – who telephoned her on the evening of his election – asked him after one morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae: “Father, but how do these expressions come to you?”
“A simple smile was his reply.” In Falasca’s judgment, the use of such expressions on the part of the pope “in literary terms is called ‘pastiche,’ which is precisely the juxtaposition of words of different levels or different registers with expressive effect. The ‘pastiche’ style is today a typical feature of communication on the web and of postmodern language. This is therefore a matter of linguistic associations unprecedented in the history of the Petrine magisterium.”
Later in the article, Magister considers the media’s silence on Pope Francis’ more provocative statements. He describes it as a gentle honeymoon. I’m inclined to view it more ominously. A pope who is censured by the world is at least more easily heard than a pope who is censored.
I’ve already lost count of the number of e-mail and Facebook enquiries which invite my comment on the conclave and the next pope.
To be honest, speculating on the next pope is as distasteful to me as speculating on my next parish assignment. Perhaps it’s superstitious on my part, but it feels like I’m second-guessing the Holy Spirit, and into the bargain prejudicing myself against the mysterious will of God.
So here’s my one and only foray into conclave watching. Early enough that it can be easily forgotten — particularly by me — by the time white smoke billows from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel.
First though, I can’t not recommend an article on Crikey, which is so bad it’s good. Here’s an appetiser:
This is high human Machiavellian drama played out by sophisticated princes (there are no princesses), pampered and refined in sumptuous Baroque gem-encrusted costumery, gold-plated chalices, priceless art collections and all the trappings of fabulous wealth. Canberra politics seems to lack a certain lustre by comparison.
Why let the facts get in the way of a good story, right? And this is a very good story. I enjoyed it immensely! Inside the Vatican: The West Wing meets The Da Vinci Code.
On the question of the next pope, who can go past Sandro Magister? I’m surprised that in his first profile of papabile, he doesn’t even mention Cardinal Turkson. But I was taken by his musings on Cardinal Tagle:
One of his limitations could be the fact that he is 56, one year younger than the age at which pope Wojtyla was elected. But here the novelty of Benedict XVI’s resignation again comes into play. After this action of his, youth will no longer be an obstacle to being elected pope.
Cardinal Tagle, you will recall, was recently canonised by me. (Anyone who protests my lack of authority in this realm should also recall that His Eminence is still alive on earth, so I’ve usurped not only the role of His Holiness the Pope, but also our Lord the Just Judge. That should indicate how seriously I take my own judgement. Nonetheless, I stand by it, and I know that my Filipino brothers in the seminary agree with me!)
Last, but not least, I recommend an excellent e-book guide to the conclave. The UK’s Catholic Truth Society has just published Conclave: Step by step through the papal interregnum. “Written by Mgr Charles Burns, the Ecclesiastical Adviser at the British Embassy to the Holy See, this free publication explains simply and clearly what happens before, during and after a Papal election.”
One of the best Church-related websites on the Internet is Sandro Magister’s Chiesa.
Magister is an Italian vaticanista, and his website is in Italian. He has an able translator in Matthew Sherry, who maintains the English-speaking section of the website. (Italian idioms frequently populate the hastier translations, but it adds to the charm.)
Magister’s editorial analysis of Church documents is always accompanied by the full text of the documents, so that even when one has cause to disagree with Magister, a visit to his site is always informative.
I was interested to learn that Magister measures the printing statistics for his website. In April, his website attracted 123,000 visitors, who printed 12,000 articles from his site each day.
Those who enter www.chiesa find that the news is accompanied by analysis, analysis by complete documents, for a picture as complete as possible, with systematic reference to the sources. So they print it all. To read it at leisure, to file it away.
It’s worth bookmarking Magister’s website, or subscribing to his newsletter. It will certainly nourish the mind better than this site!