Friday, June 29, 2007

Scenes from a Conferral

Every year on this day, the famous statue of St Peter in the basilica that bears his name -- you know, the one with the worn-down toe -- gets even more decked out the occasion than than the Pope himself, tiara and all.

Actually, while the sculpture-scale triregno was conspicuous by its absence these last couple of years, it's returned for this morning.

Make of it what you will, but just as the day's patron is looking, crowned head to worn foot, like a Prince of the Apostles again, latest word on the next consistory -- which, until about six weeks ago, was slated to be happening right this minute -- tips it for Christ the King (25 November).

Mark your calendars. With a pencil.

In keeping with the reigning (non-bronzed) pontiff's penchant for prompt scheduling and the record number of metropolitans receiving their pallia at today's rite, the queue's being pushed through with a speed more resemblant to the bag-check line under the Colonnade than the world's new archbishops approaching their moment in the papal sun.

What's more, the seniority bit went out the window. This (predictably) spurred Mass confusion in the commentary of Vatican Radio, whose Anglophone hand proceeded to inform the faithful that Archbishop Bagnasco of Genoa (merely the head of the Italian episcopal conference) was the lone representative from Papua New Guinea... seconds before mistaking a European for Ozy Gracias (of Bombay), and the dear archbishop of Toronto for (get this) a Peruvian.

As the Holy See's official broadcaster took the old concept of the "episcopacy as one" to new levels, the only thing missing was a panicked query of why Archbishop Csaba Ternyak was getting a pallium.

Fortunately, given the circumstances, the former secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, now back in his native Hungary, wasn't mentioned.

While most of the rest got hustled through -- and just after Archbishop Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw basked in the applause of his phalanx of pilgrims -- the Pope looked quite intent to hang onto Richard Smith for a word. As if naming the 48 year-old to Edmonton wasn't sufficient proof of the Canadian wunderkind's favor on high, Benedict's laserlike gaze on Smith served to reiterate that the mustachioed one, a native Halifaxer, made quite the impression on last fall's ad limina when, as bishop of Pembroke and president of the Ontario bishops, he addressed the Boss on behalf of the group.

To his credit, the VR commentator didn't confuse Smith with, say, a Chinese archbishop -- he just changed his name to "William" (which, in fairness, is his middle name... but still).

Finally, sounding a bit besieged, the poor fellow threw in the towel. "No, perhaps I was wrong," the voice offered, before reading the list of the absentees.

Sure, you'd hope the head of the Radio would ensure that his on-air folks had their chops together. Then again, he's already got his hands more than full -- as the papal spokesman.