Down with these sort of #popenings

Is Dad having the last laugh as the Pope bows out on the 15th anniversary of his death, wonders Don Morgan

POPE Benedict XVI kept his decision to himself and with good reason: The Vatican is an institution leakier than Gérard Depardieu on a short-haul flight. The media has gone into overdrive, Twitter’s gone into tailspin, and Benedict’s gone for a pint of Chianti. He’s outta here.

Following the Holy Father’s momentous statement and the subsequent press conference by Fr Vince Lombardy, I would at this point like to quell speculation and announce that I am ruling myself out of the running for the position of Supreme Pontiff and wearer of the 266th-hand Shoes of the Fisherman™. I’d be as likely to fly the union flag for 17 days of the year, to see if anyone notices. Kathryn Thomas will probably fill in until a long-term replacement can be found; however, the Catholic Church is not an equal oppor-tunities employer, so she’s likely to lose out on the permanent gig.

The reaction to Benedict’s announcement has been momentous, stupendous, and sometimes just stupid. The outpouring of admiration and respect for Benedict by worthies has been matched by the near destruction of Twitter, whose exhausted CEO is expected to announce that he, too, is unable to cope with the physical burden of his position.

Most of the conversation on Twitter has been silly and no doubt a lot of fun. I’ve already gorged myself on joke hashtags, #popening being a particular favourite. One voice on Twitter has been silent.

Many people have tweeted in disgust about @Pontifex, the Pope’s personal account, being silent. Why exactly an octogenarian theologian would want to converse with a bunch of people who make facetious comments on his timeline is anyone’s guess. But silent @Pontifex is and likely to remain so, unless Stephen Fry becomes the new man in Rome.

Having no hand, act, or part in the election, all that’s left for us to do is to watch the rolling news. The race to find a default source of TV coverage has already begun. We can admire the BBC’s reporting of Benedict’s handling of the child abuse scandal with absolutely no hint of irony, which is not as easy as it sounds. Their reporting so far has been a masterclass in the comedy of embarrassment. We get to sit back and amuse ourselves at the goldfish-like reportage, where the entire election process is explained repeatedly to a public that gets it, doesn’t care, and that ultimately knows that nothing that is uttered will influence the decision in any way, shape or form.

RTÉ coverage is as lo-fi as a Strokes album, with Smokin‘ Joe Little coolly citing canon law like lads talk about hanging out with Micheal Fassbender to impress the ladies. He’s been released from the usual darkness of his portfolio to discuss what is dreadfully, dreadfully fun — speculating on an election. RTÉ are the main men for this, and have stuck to hard facts.

The decision of who’s replacing Benedict XVI is not, mercifully, down to the pundits and randomers found on TV voxpops: They’d vote for Olly Murs. Rather, it’s down to the all-male cast of sister act to decide who gets to live out their vow of poverty in an art gallery so sumptuous it makes Versailles look like a three-bed semi in Portlaoise.

The Pope has also revealed an unexpected sense of humour. His last day in office is Feb 28, the 15th anniversary of the death of my dad, Dermot Morgan.

I think he would have liked the irony.

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