01/09/2015

Fearless forecasts for Pope Francis

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Switching between FM radio stations the other day, I chanced upon DJ Mo Twister in the middle of an interesting hypothesis: he proposed that out of all their listeners on Magic 89.9, 90 percent cared more about avoiding the imminent Pope-wide traffic than actually wanting to see the Pope.

And like the biblical clap of thunder heralding divine disagreement, the phone lines started to ring. Apparently, people did care about seeing the Pope —whether by watching TV, by commuting from their provinces a few days earlier, or by volunteering as part of the human barricade (to which Twister quips, “So you’d stand between the Pope and a gunshot?”)

With only a few days left until the much-awaited Papal visit, most of the country, understandably, is ecstatic. It could be for the Pope, it could be for the five-day non-working holiday announced by Malacañang.

As someone who’s always placed more premium on the intangible entity of God rather than His representatives on earth (who, let’s admit, can bungle doctrines which way they want ‘til kingdom come), I didn’t expect to find myself excited over this particular messenger. But I am.

It’s Pope Francis, after all. He of the 12 million Twitter followers, rock star of the Catholic Church, erstwhile bouncer and tango dancer, the People’s Pope, a 21st century man’s man. Or God’s man, for that matter.

In anticipation of the possible Philippine scenarios which could follow this ultra-popular pontiff, here’s a short list:

1. Atheists will love (or, okay, respect) him anyway.

I can already imagine all the commentary of self-professed atheists in the wake of Pope Francis’ arrival. In fact, it’s happening already (see “A Filipino Atheist’s Letter to Pope Francis,” posted on Rappler). They will scrutinize and examine every pore on his balding head, every liver spot on his face, every wrinkle and chink in his flowing white armor.

And they’ll leave him alone. Because ultimately, Pope Francis has no beef with those who don’t believe in Christ. To him, as long as atheists “do good,” they’ll be redeemed anyway, whether or not they ask for any kind of redemption (which they won’t). In a much-celebrated homily during a Mass last year, Pope Francis tells us that people of all or no religions are first-class believers in their own way. Be a good person; that’s the common point of humanity right there.

2. Leftists will take a moment to raise a fist for him.

A South American Pope? One who’s lived under Argentina’s military dictatorship, borne witness to extrajudicial killings and the countless cases of desaparecidos? That’s probably the least reason for any leftist to like Pope Francis. The man’s ideology speaks for itself: he is for the de-monopolization of agricultural lands, is a staunch critic of trickle-down economics, and looks at neoliberalism with one beady, unbelieving eye. Nope, the Pope isn’t a Marxist. Just a critical observer of the tyranny of the market; a passionate and erudite believer in social justice, and a good Christian to boot, thank you very much. That said, how can any self-respecting Marxist not appreciate the man?

3. Non-Catholics will nod their heads and acknowledge him as a fairly decent, Non-Muslim, Non-Buddhist, Non-Hindu, Non-Scientologist guy.

See number 1.

4. The Internet will explode.

Again. I anticipate memes upon memes upon memes, most likely featuring a picture of the Pope bending down to kiss some elderly invalid or newborn babe, while the rich and the famous look longingly from an artfully blurred background. Corollarily, I anticipate the long rants about the traffic, the complaints about our local airlines for cancelling flights because of the Pope, the unenlightened blindness of the masses in clamoring over one man, the weather, the terrible urban planning, the unfairness of the Swiss Guards in not letting anyone get near the Pope, the government in general, and did I mention the traffic?

5. Our government officials will hang their heads in shame.

Despite the admittedly over-the-top, no-holds-barred preparation of our government for Pope Francis’ arrival (including, but not limited to, limited-edition Pope Francis coins, the creation of ad hoc government positions to accommodate his arrival, the closing off of major roads and terminals, the specially-made “Popemobile” for the motorcade, etc.), they will receive little praise for it. Not because the Pope’s a snooty diva, but because of the irony: the amount of money and attention spent for his visit, vis-à-vis Pope Francis’ self-proclaimed mission of not wanting to make the trip about him in the first place. The Vicar of Christ does not approve of excessive marketing campaigns, or excessive anything. But since he once said, in not so many words, to handle trolls with kindness, he will most likely appreciate this eager gesture from our government. In all sincerity, of course.

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