Thursday, March 08, 2007

Like a Rolling Pope

As you heard here yesterday, among other long-awaited documents, Benedict XVI is rolling out two new releases for the bookshelves this spring.

The more-prominent one -- the first volume of Joseph Ratzinger's historical meditation on Jesus of Nazareth, will be released in English on Easter Tuesday, 10 April.

But the other one, hitting the stores quicker after just having come to light in recent days, is "Il Mio Amato Predecessore" -- "My Beloved Predecessor," a tribute to and study of the late Pope John Paul II. It'll be published in Italy next week.

As veteran readers know, Benedict has come to shy away from taking up the widespread practice of dubbing the titanic globe-trotting Pope of 27 years "the Great," invariably using "l'amato" instead.

This has been an evolution of word-use; at his first appearance following his election on the central balcony of St Peter's, the new Pope did use "il grande" in beginning his first public remarks to the world as John Paul's successor. Less than a month later, the prelate who served Wojtyla as his doctrinal czar, lightning rod and, at the pontificate's end, dean of the College of Cardinals, announced before the priests of Rome that he was waiving the customary five-year cooling off period and permitting his predecessor's cause for beatification to be opened immediately.

For all its official closeness -- as cardinal-dean, Ratzinger was directly behind the Pope on the church's table of precedence, and as prefect of the CDF he met weekly with the pontiff -- the relationship was largely one of effective working relationship as opposed to intense personal friendship. The Pope-to-be was said to be saddened that, given the presence of only John Paul's cadre of Polish friends in his bedroom at the moment of his death, he had been excluded from the room until after the Holy Father had died and his circle of countrymen sang the "Te Deum."

Of course, Ratzinger's reserved nature kept these emotions from being in evidence during his homily at the papal funeral, the virtuoso performance which captivated one of the largest audiences in human history and quelled doubts about the then-Grand Inquisitor's warm and fluffiness for the job.

The rest, as they say, is history.

But as expected, the British press is jumping on Benedict's take re: John Paul's embrace of Bob Dylan:

In 1997, John Paul II sat on a stage along with 50 cardinals in a vast fairground outside Bologna while slightly below and in front of him, Bob Dylan, wearing a cowboy hat and rhinestone- spangled zoot suit, crunched his way through "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", "It's a Hard Rain" and "Forever Young".
After the second song Dylan ascended to the Pope's throne, doffed the hat, Nashville Skyline-style, and shook his hand.

The Pope then preached a sermon to the 300,000-strong audience. How many roads must a man walk down? "Just one," declared the Pope. What answer is blowing in the wind? "The breath and voice of the Spirit," he insisted, "a voice that calls and says, 'Come'."

At the time the event was seen as one of the more brilliant publicity stunts by the most publicity-savvy pope that ever lived. But in a book published this week, Benedict XVI, the late pope's theological adviser, reveals that he thought the whole thing a very bad idea. "The Pope arrived [at the Bologna Eucharist Congress] tired, worn out," he writes in My Beloved Predecessor. "Just at that moment Bob Dylan, the 'star' of the young, and others whose names I do not recall, turned up. They had a message completely different from that to which the Pope was committed. There was reason to be sceptical - which I was, and in a certain sense still am - to doubt whether it was really right to involve 'prophets' of this type."...

If Benedict is a fogey, he is in good company. Meanwhile, his Bobness has only happy memories of Bologna. "That show was one of the best I ever played in my whole life," he said.
In related news, the Vicariate for Rome announced today that the diocesan phase of John Paul's cause for beatification is at an end. Following a ceremony on 2 April -- the second anniversary of the candidate's death -- the cause will proceed to the docket and scrutiny of the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints.