This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Saturday 7 January 2023

How to conduct a papal funeral

Today we have another instalment in our long-running series "How to be a good pope", providing useful advice to those readers (Hi, Blase! Hi, Arthur! Hi, Luis!) who have already booked a fitting with Gammarelli ("Pope Suits For All Sizes").

The story so far: your predecessor, Pope Benjamin, took the advice of the St Gallbladder Mafia, and resigned his office (for after Cardinal Comic Murphy-O'Blimey put a horse's head in his bed, and Cardinal Godless Dandruff enquired about fitting him for concrete boots, he felt it was time to call it a day).

Of course, some argue that he had resigned the Munus but not the Ministerium because he said the wrong words for resignation: these traddy Latin terms mean that he could still be pope. Of course you don't accept this, especially since the St Gallbladder chaps have given up trying to threaten him and gone back to money-laundering financial speculation instead. Now he is believed to have died - but maybe his last words were invalid and he is not really dead? What a mess.

Eccles: get on with the advice. We haven't got all day. Pietro.

Pope funeral homily

"All-purpose funeral homily. Do not read this bit out. Oops!"

Well, one thing you have to do at Pope Benjamin's funeral is to preach a homily. Now, this will be difficult, as your usual homilies consist of a stream of insults. Not today, please! Avoid words like "rigid" and "backwardist", whatever you thought of your predecessor - in any case, you have spent the last ten years reversing all the changes he made. So keep your homily totally bland, the sort that can be given for anyone who dies - you're not very good at profound theological statements, anyway. At the end you may end with "And so we say farewell to [fill in name here]" and everyone will be pleased.

receiving on the hand

Here comes trouble...

Later in the service, the faithful will wish to receive Communion. Some rigid troublemakers will want to receive on the tongue while kneeling, but this will not go down well with all the priests present. The solution is to provide a range of priests etc. of different flavours - some rigid priests, some less traditional ones, some dressed as clowns, some holding balloons, and of course a few extraordinary ministers (they don't have to be very extraordinary, the usual vestments of tee-shirts, jeans and trainers will be fine). Then the congregation can make its own choices.

Finally, one disadvantage of a papal funeral is that you cannot exclude cardinals, even the ones you are avoiding. The last time that Cardinal Tao of China turned up you managed to avoid him by hiding in a broom cupboard, and so he couldn't complain to you about China's policy of rebranding members of the secret police as Catholic bishops. This time it's not going to be so easy. Cardinal Tao has been taking lessons in the game of hide-and-seek, and will certainly find you if you hide under the bed or in a cupboard. Does the Vatican have a "Pope's Hole" where persecuted popes can hide? If not, you'll have to meet him.

Pope and Zen

Now, gentlemen, I want a clean fight.

Or you could release some photoshopped pictures to make it look as though you met him? No, people will see through that. Make it a short meeting, in a sacred place, so that he cannot practise the ancient martial arts of Chop Suey or Foo Yung on you. Your own Papa-Slappa may be good for enough for young female pilgrims, but will never defeat a cardinal with a black belt!

As for what you say to him... keep it short. Pretend you have an urgent appointment with two cardinals who want to ask you a few Dubia. This may even be true, but if it is, I can't help you.

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