by the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. I certainly wasn't shocked. Perhaps my reaction might have been different if I was a Catholic - but I'm not.
I have not yet had a chance to talk to our friend Polly. Polly is a nun but I have a feeling that her reaction might not be what some would expect from a nun.
The man is 85. He is obviously unwell. There are suggestions he may have been diagnosed with a serious medical condition. (Several people have mentioned Alzheimer's but there has been no confirmation of that.) He was a strange choice but apparently never considered to be more than a sort of stop-gap Pope while one of the younger Cardinals was learning more about the job.
Younger is, of course, relative. All the current candidates are over sixty. Most people are thinking about retiring at that age, not taking on a new career.
There are some interesting analyses of the possible candidates on numerous websites, in the press and in the news services. Some names come up over and over again. Others get a mention in one place and not in others. The reason for their mention is often because they are the local or regional man, not because they are really likely contenders for the position - or so it would seem.
The reality is of course that very few people, if any, understand the inner workings of the Vatican. Even those who work there at the highest level do not fully understand the way it works - if it does work. It is unlikely that even Popes understand how everything happens there. I doubt they do.
There was a description in one place of how a Pope is chosen. The actual voting is steeped in ritual - or so they say. Yes, I do rather doubt they just scribble their choice on a scrap of paper and drop it into the hat of the nearest cardinal - or the last Pope's skull cap. How do they make their choice? Nobody knows. I doubt they know themselves. Do they ever admit to being jealous? Rivalry in the Vatican is apparently intense.
I imagine that most of them secretly hope they will get the top job. They would, like anyone else, like to think of their names going down in the history books. Most Cardinals will remain unknown outside their immediate area of influence - and they know it. There is one who has apparently stated that being Pope would be "a nightmare". If he genuinely means that then he is probably the man for the job. (He is also younger than most of them.) Of course he is a "conservative" but most of them are. They were chosen by conservatives.
Sadly one of the best candidates is no longer available. He would have been ideal due to his name alone. He was, I believe, the Cardinal of Manila for many years. His name was Jaime Sin. It was the cause of much amusement among his flock. He would apparently welcome them to his home with the words,
"Welcome to the house of Sin."
Now imagine being able to do that at the Vatican.