Some out there are passing around a prophecy about Pope Francis that speaks of him as the last Pope of the Catholic Church. After him the sky will shudder and God will bring the flood. This seems to be supported by the Church’s familiar numeric appendage to the Pope’s name: he is the first Francis but not Francis the First. Is it a sign or some papal scheming?
Pope Francis wants to replace the gold cross with one made of wood. He wants to give the church back to the poor. Popes have their own reasoning for such acts. One need not investigate the Pope’s motivation on these matters, but rather their long-term impact, if any.
Alternatively, let’s embark on another Sisyphean pursuit.
Since the sixteenth century, writing has aspired towards permanence. That horrific century brought a succession of powers, churches, popes, writers, politicians, and artists who made attempts at immortality by making their marks on the rocks of time. The Catholic Church has remained tenaciously faithful, in a sense, to the fifteenth century. The Church’s guards, popes, teachings, sermons, and its Bible have been the center of attention since Michelangelo finished his marvelous works at the Sistine Chapel. As is the case with other holy books, the Bible is a hymnal. Its hymns are recited and sung in the same fashion as the hymns found in other holy books. The fact that the Bible is a hymnal means that there’s a strong tendency, which has remained strong for centuries, to convert it from the written to the oral realm. In the latter realm, it is no longer simply a book, a physical artifact that will fall victim to the deleterious effects of light and humidity, but an invocation that unites all, regardless of their faith. The recitation and the sound of bells are meant to be familiar even to heretics and infidels. This phenomenon finds a perfect match in other holy books like the Torah and the Quran. Religions have, since the beginning, sought to make the word of God familiar and approachable. People who treated divine texts as primarily written words became priests, irrespective of their vocational inclination: infidels, heretics, atheists, priests, or theologians. Voltaire is no less priestly than St. Augustine.
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