Saturday, 16 March 2013

The papal succession - still not as exciting as it used to be

The first papal resignation for almost six centuries, the first non-European pope for nearly thirteen hundred years, the first new papal name in over a millennium (if you don't count the composite "John Paul") - it's been an exciting week for Vatican trivia fans. Archbishop Vincent Nichols was thrilled:
It is a remarkable and very exciting moment. I think it's wonderful that the Church can come up with such a surprise and absolutely hold the world's attention and put somebody there who is really going to bring something fresh to the papacy.
It's all kind of interesting, in an  E.L. Wisty sort of way, but it still doesn't compare with the sort of surprising things the Church used to come up with back in the days when the papacy really mattered:
Pope Stephen VI, on his accession in 896, accused his predecessor, Formosus, of sacrilegiously bringing the papal office into disrepute. The body of the dead pope was exhumed, dressed in the pontifical robes and set up on a throne in St. Peter’s, where a deacon was appointed to defend him. When the verdict of guilty was pronounced, the executioner thrust Formosus from the throne, stripped him of his robes, cut off the three benedictory fingers of his right hand and threw his body “as a pestilential thing” into the Tiber.
Now that would 'absolutely hold the world's attention.'