28 February, 2013


The name means 'blessed' and I have sometimes wondered why he took it. Previous Benedicts weren't up to much, although the last one, who reigned during World War I, was a fairly good egg. I rather think that after the papal equivalent of a rockstar he wanted to be seen as a quiet, holy man. At his inaugural address he described himself as 'a humble worker in God's vineyard' which, for someone who had been known as 'the Pope's rottweiler' was image spin at its best.

In retrospect the Vatican needed a manager and it got a scholar. Some of the reins had got a little loose during John Paul II's international whirlwind, including the child molestation issue and, as we are now beginning to learn, homosexuality in the priesthood and higher. The Vatican has always contained more than its fair share of intriguers, and left unchecked this can reach fever pitch, as it may have done over the 'Vatileaks' scandal. The Holy See needed someone who could discipline, organise and be a little ruthless, and then portray his works to an increasingly sceptical congregation; instead it got a kindly old theologian.

I am sure Benedict was a thoroughly decent man and that history will remember him as such, but now St. Peter's needs a Chief Executive and a diplomat.

Benedict will be known as Pope Emeritus, which is decent enough, and, appropriately, an oft used academical appellation. He should keep out of sight, as he has promised to do, even though scandals emerge which are, perhaps unfairly, blamed on him. He may be the Aunt Sally Pope.

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