Thursday, April 14, 2005

The pope is dead. The prince is dead. The prince got married. The prince got sick.

It was a busy week over at Paris Match. The pope and Prince Rainier of Monaco were bedpost to bedpost. Meanwhile Prince Charles was supposed to get married and had to postpone it a day (luckily the hall wasn’t rented out for a bar mitzvah). To top it all off Prince Ernst-August of Hanover, husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco, was taken to the hospital with acute pancreatitis and put in intensive care. I’m sure Paris Match would have preferred these events to be spaced out, say, one per month.

The pope seemed to grab most of the press coverage. Amid all the comments I heard, the one that stuck in my mind came from French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut. He said on France Info, the radio news station I listen to every morning, that we have just witnessed, not the end of the pope’s life, but the end of his death. For the past several years, thanks to endless media coverage of his activities, we have watched the pope grow progressively weaker. We’ve witnessed his agony, his passion. In Mr. Finkielkraut’s view, all this fed into a sort of idolatry that has built up around the pope.

Like Alain Finkielkraut, I’m not Catholic, but unlike him, I hadn’t had the courage to say what he did. With all due respect for the greatness of the man and of his 26-year pontificate, this will be my memory of Pope John Paul II: a frail man, once great, aging before my very eyes, his voice shaking a little more each time I heard it.

In France there was a bit of a flap about the fact that the government ordered flags be flown at half mast. The justification was that an acting head of State had died. Others countered that many heads of state have died in office without France flying flags at half mast. This is a sensitive topic here, in a country where any kind of official recognition of a given religion coming from the officially secular State is frowned upon. Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin also wrote a column in the Catholic newspaper La Croix, paying homage to the pope, but did not sign it as the prime minister.


Post a Comment

<< Home