Stet by Ria Bacon

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Is it over?

busy busy busy! no time to post ...

The rumourmongers and naysayers (moi?) were proved wrong last Friday when Rome did not crumble and disappear under the crush of four million pilgrims for the Pope's funeral. It helped that there were far fewer visitors than predicted (less than two million, certainly). I live just down from Circo Massimo, which had been kitted out as a campsite with a giant videoscreen, and barely noticed any change from usual. I passed a dozen Poles by the Metro and the traffic was slightly lighter (despite a TOTAL BAN on vehicles in the area!). Heh, everyone wants inflated figures in this instance - the Vatican (See! We are still relevant!) and the media (a neverending human tide of the faithful swamps news channels - "Whose turn is it for the Rome junket?").

As an eyewitness, I estimate there were only a few thousand at Circo Massimo, and most of them were Papaboys.

I found the ceremony itself quite dignified although I cringed at Cardinal Ratzinger's cheesy theatrics, pointing to the window from where the Pope used to give his blessing,
We can be sure that our beloved Pope is standing today at the window of the Father's house, that he sees us and blesses us.
Perhaps, strike that, I know I'm a cynic in these matters, but it was cheesy because it was artificial. It looked as if he was reading someone else's words and only remembered to raise his hand to point when he saw it written in the script.

Kudos maximus (ahem) to the Civil Protection agency. They managed the crowds superbly and gave lie to the oxymoron Italian organization.

One of their novel ideas was to send text messages to every mobile phone, warning them not to go near the Vatican (see previous post). The day after the funeral, I overheard a Roman grumbling that it had been a cunning plan to allow the Poles to get the best places. (Mamma mia!)

The crowds at the Vatican were certainly not all Polish, given the number of huge banners demanding Santo subito! (immediate sainthood) for the Pope. I had already anticipated a rash of miracles attributed to JPII within a few days, but apparently they had already started being reported before he died.
Father Maksymilian knew a woman in Ukraine with a battered television set which hadn't worked for two years. When the Pope visited the country, she was desperate to witness it on television, but was too scared to ask her Russian Orthodox neighbours to let her watch their set - religious rivalries run deep in Ukraine. Suddenly, just as the Pope was arriving in the country, her broken-down TV whirred into life. It continued to work for his entire stay, then died again. "Really, the set was garbage," says Father Maksymilian, concluding his case.
Whirred into life? Perhaps she had just forgotten to wind it up.