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HOLY SEE/ Albacete: What the Pope really is for Catholics

LORENZO ALBACETE comments on the way the media are following the Conclave, as if it were a Presidential election. But the Pope is not a President: he is the custodian of Incarnation

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A few years ago, I was directing a retreat for priests during Easter week in Florida. I had arrived late, of course, for my first lesson, so I decided to sit and wait at a bench on the bank of a large river that cut through the grounds of the retreat house. I could hear the priests singing the Easter psalms in the chapel.

I noticed how the Scriptures and the Liturgical Hymns tie together the mysterious event of the Resurrection of Jesus to all kinds of amazing events in nature such as jumping mountains, trees clapping their hands and "shouting for joy," etc. I wondered: at the precise moment in time in which the Resurrection took place, were any of its effects on nature felt even a little bits here, along the banks of this river? Did any of those palm trees at least try to clap its palms a little?

Or was all of that just a manner of speaking ? Was the Resurrection itself a manner of speaking?

If it is just a manner of speaking, then I intend to go into the chapel and tell the priests to go home and grow up and stop singing children songs about jumping hills and clapping trees. Whatever happened that moment at the tomb in Jerusalem, it must have been an event with a physical dimension - and not a manner of expressing a spiritual truth - or Christianity is just an obsolete way of speaking .

But this column is not meant to be an Easter homily. I mention this because I was reminded of it as I looked for ways to describe what it has been like this past week. No matter how many other news interested radio, television, cable, and newspaper audiences, the election of a new Pope has certainly attracted attention all week. All of the most well known anchormen and women went to Rome to cover the events. Coverage was by and large fair in spite of the fact that many knew as much about the Catholic Church as I know about the NFL and yet was sent to cover the Superbowl.

Their reports sought to explain the events in Rome in terms of the election of American presidents. Some of the comparisons were clever and descriptive. Reports also dealt with the religious basis of the events. Even prayer and the Holy Spirit made their appearance in the reports.

Still, very few if any overcame the error mentioned at the beginning of this column, namely, the Church was looking for a leader who would be able and strong to clean up the scandal-ridden administration, and spiritual enough to attract the diversity of people for which other religions are competing as well as a secularism threatening all.

But this is not how we understand the mission of the Pope.

Before being someone with a job to do, he is the one sent to us to hear, see, and touch, whose physical presence is what links us to Christ. He is the custodian of the Incarnation.

Otherwise he and his entourage and all those ceremonies are but simply a manner of speaking .

That is why this week we have been so anxious until the announcement was to be heard:

Habemus Papam!

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