Eva Bradley: From a public bus to the Popemobil

By Eva Bradley

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I have to confess I love a good enclave. Even though I'm not Catholic nor even especially religious, there is something quite exciting about the idea of a bunch of cardinals (or to use the proper noun a "radiance" of cardinals) shuffling into the Sistine Chapel and lighting fires.

The tradition of electing a new Pope is - like the religion he represents - filled with history, intrigue, quaint ritual and mystery.

But as I watched Francis the first shuffle up to the balcony of St Peter's Basilica and raise his right arm to half mast, I couldn't help but wonder what really goes on inside the mind of a new Pope at such an auspicious moment.

What does a man think when suddenly elevated from a Joe Public who catches the bus to work (admittedly as a senior Catholic cardinal) and makes his own packed lunch, to being God's representative on Earth for around 1.2 billion people?

For me it felt a bit like groundhog day - another white-haired, white-robed old man assisted onto the balcony for a feeble wave before shuffling off to do, quite literally, God knows what.

But for Francis, nee Jorge? Does he feel pride to have come from the back of the pack to take out the title in what is arguably the world's most influential and powerful job?

Does he wonder what his mum would think if only she could see him now? Or worry about how embarrassing it might be if he stumbled in his flowing robes - Jennifer Lawrence style - while stepping up for his moment in the spotlight?

Or does he just feel a sense of crushing responsibility that he - God's new right- hand man but still just a man at the end of the day - now bears the responsibility to fix a Church shattered by scandal and corruption in an increasingly irreligious world where God is just not as cool as he once was?

Pope Francis' unique selling point, and no doubt a contributing factor in his selection, is a tendency to spurn the glitz, glamour and glory of Vatican life in favour of humble poverty and helping the poor. In an age when people are increasingly intolerant of the trappings of power and wealth, his M.O. is all very N.O.W.

That aside, I'm still curious about just how easily a man transforms himself into a Pope. For a start, one of the founding principles of his Jesuit order is that one must obey the Pope. Which is all well and good unless you ARE the Pope. We all know that the hardest rules to follow are the ones we make for ourselves so what are the consequences now when he next has a "I won't eat the last Toffee Pop, I won't, I won't... okay well just this time" moment and breaks the rules of his order?

While we can imagine other lofty leaders like the Queen and Prime Minister going home to visit their families at Christmas and taking a well-earned break to lie on a sandy beach somewhere warm, who does the Pope hang out with during holiday season?

The fact you can resign from the top job has made it all too apparent that it is, despite its religious associations, just a job. Worse, it's one without a pay cheque.

But it does have holidays. Which makes me of course wonder if the Pope looks forward to these so he can sleep in, wear comfy track pants instead of robes, and turn his cellphone off (if not his direct line to the man upstairs).

Some might consider all these musings entirely disrespectful and inappropriate.

But in an age when the Catholic church, like all religions, is being challenged to shift with the times, seeing the Pope as a man first and a spiritual saviour second at least gives him a fighting chance to try and make heaven here on earth, even if it is a bit grubby around the edges.

Eva Bradley is an award-winning columnist.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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