An earthy man with jumbo, Dumbo ears. Even as he raises the unleavened bread for it to become God incarnate, the body of Christ, it is not hard to imagine him at table – enjoying his food; also at stool afterwards – with similar satisfaction.
Pope Francis is performing a miracle – bread into body. Don’t be surprised: he does it all the time. Another one will be along in minute – wine into blood; and here are two he prepared earlier – the dead popes (John Paul II and John XXIII) which he transformed into saints before going on to celebrate mass.Yes, it is easy to reveal the pope and his retinue for what they partly are: men with feet of clay and an appetite for repairing the sullied reputation of the ‘holy’ Church, host to all their privileges. And then there is that gesture, performed by popes and priests alike, maintained throughout the process of consecration except when the celebrant is required to fiddle with bits of bodily bread and the carafe of bloody wine. They all do it – this gesture; and no one else is allowed to. Elbows tucked in; hands raised to shoulder height, held sideways on; palms open – facing each other. In the space between the celebrant’s hands – about the length of his forearm, there is room for all the men and women in the world. With all of us included in this space, there is God – in the instant. There is God, the moment all humanity is here. Then again, not. Nothing but a rhetorical posture which grossly distorts the universal relation between human beings – you and me and anyone who reads this and everyone who never does, never did, never will. But by trying and even by failing to formulate this relation in the prescribed gesture of a designated individual, at least therelation itself is acknowledged. It’s not heaven – we must know that; but surely better than the interpersonal purgatory in which nothing exceeds networking. Two months before the World Cup opens in Brazil (and three months earlier and four months before that), an excess of violence. In Rio, what else would they do but riot? N.B. In the relation outlined above, ‘they’ is really some of us. Denied entry to theforthcoming festival of futebol; pacified – occupied – by military police presence. Meanwhile the Catholic mass – the holdall – is simply not big enough to hold them all, all the time. Of course we always knew as much: that is why football in the first place, and why it matters more than mortal life. One night in Rio, a few blocks from the Maracana, a man hurls a long wooden pole at police lines, his body a perfect arc of strength, movement, completion. But Robocop is a long way off; the missile will fall far short. Between its trajectory and the line of police, a middle aged woman walks unperturbed, carrying her shopping. The woman is solid, earthy: she might be the pope’s sister…….or his wife.