Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Holy Relics??

The Pope was entombed last Friday. All over the world the Roman Catholic Faithful watched as funeral rites of Saint Peter's Successor. World leaders - hereditary, elected and otherwise - went to pay their last respects. No one will doubt that this was the biggest funeral of this century. John Paul II, despite his conservative and steadfast views on religion, is well loved. His reign, which was one of the longest papal reign, will greatly affect the fate of the Church.Immediate would be the indentity of the new Pope.

The Pope is selected by a vote of the Cardinals. All but three Cardinals, actually two since one of the Cardinals (Cardinal Sin) is to ill to travel to from Manila to Rome, will be voting the first time. And nearly all Cardinals were appointed by John Paul II.

What caught my eye in the last few days was the emergence of objects used by the Pope during his visits to the Philippines.

Last weekend at Gateway, on display was the chair the Pope was sitting on when he first visited Manila. This was the chair he used when he gave an audience at the Araneta Coliseum. Another thing that appeared was the Pope mobile. The bullet proof mechanised chariot was used when the Pope navigated his way around Manila. This was during his second trip to Manila, post-Mehmet Ali Agca.

The threat to a Pope's life was real. During the 1970s when Paul Paul VI visited the Philippines, a mentally disturbed a Bolivian surrealist painter named Benjamin Mendoza y Amor Flores tried to assasinate the Pope with a kris hidden inside a cross. According to one story a bishop shielded the Pope from the attacker. Another story said that then President Marcos delivered a karate chop that disabled the painter. Nevertheless the attempt by the Bolivian was stopped, whether by the religious intervention or by a presidential chop nobody really cares.

Going back to the topic.

The emergence of these objects during the wake of the Pontiff is interesting but also a little bit alarming. As keepsakes for history one can understand their value and the need to display them for all of us. However, I do hope that these things remain things and not be turned into relics.

This actually reminds me of an episode in the British comedy series "Blackadder" where Blackadder becomes the Archibishop of Canterbury and he discusses with his henchmen Baldrick how to profit from being a priest. And Baldrick promptly shows Archibishop Blackadder the different methods of earning money: from selling curses - both big and small, selling holy relics - Jesus' nose and Joan of Arc's breast among other things, and assorted wood work done by Jesus during his carpenter's years - sandals and cheese boards. Sandals and cheese boards.

My fear is that sometimes we put too much faith in objects and often times there are people who take advantage of this.


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