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The Sydney Morning Herald

Holy see

Author: Nick Galvin
Date: 25/10/2003
Words: 795
Source: SMH
          Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Computers
Page: 10
The Pope's poor health has inspired a church-load of speculation on his likely successor, writes Nick Galvin.

With the ageing Pope John Paul II celebrating 25 years in the top job this month, runners and riders are already jockeying for position in the Who'll Be The Next Pope Stakes.

But don't put your shirt on Sydney's own brand-new cardinal George Pell becoming the next Catholic boss.

In fact, Pell doesn't even feature in the field offered by "Ireland's Biggest Bookmaker"

Paddy Power (, click

on "Novelties"). Front runner at an almost unbackable 2-1 is Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi.

But George shouldn't be too offended - maybe after the shock election of a Pole 25 years ago, the world's Catholics are just not ready for the prospect of an Aussie pontiff wheeling his barbie on to the balcony at St Peter's.

But we get ahead of ourselves. The present occupant of the Vatican is still very much alive, if not all that well, at a venerable 82, even if CNN jumped the gun somewhat a couple of years ago when they unwittingly published John Paul II's obituary on the internet (www

For the lowdown on the remarkable life and times of the Pope, take a look at the enormously impressive Vatican site (www

Born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in Kracow, Poland, in 1920, he worked in quarries and a chemical factory in his pre-papal life, developing a life-long hatred of communism in the process.

He was ordained a priest in 1946, becoming Bishop of Kracow in 1964 and a cardinal in 1967. From there on it was a rocket ride to

the top.

At the Vatican site you'll also find a comprehensive collection of the Pope's pronouncements in the form of 14 encyclicals, 13 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions and 42 apostolic letters, each espousing the resolute conservatism that either encourages or outrages, depending on your point of view.

CNN's special on John Paul II ( provides a fuller and, perhaps, more objective

account of the pontiff's life than that from the Vatican press office.

A comprehensive photo-essay puts a face to the man said to be the world's best-known person.

There's also an essay entitled, "Who's Waiting in the Wings", sizing up likely successors (sorry, George).

Over at the Time site ( is a beautifully turned piece from American Conservative commentator William F. Buckley Jnr, who dubs the Pope: "The most tireless moral voice of a secular age - he reminded humankind of the worth of individuals in the modern world."

However, even Buckley's praise can't alter the fact that the Pope only ranked seventh in Time's "Person of the Century" poll (www

However, when you consider the list is headed by none other than Elvis Aaron Presley, maybe that says more about the voters than the nominees. There are two major articles of faith surrounding the papacy, the first of which is that the present Pope is the latest in a line stretching back to St Peter. And if you find that hard to swallow, check the list at the Catholic Encyclopedia (www

/cathen/12272b.htm), where you'll find all 265 - count 'em.

The other big (to non-Catholics at least) papal quirk is the doctrine of infallibility.

Basically, if you buy into this one, the Pope is always right (and in that respect he's no different from many other fathers).

However, if you think you can make a quick call to the Vatican and get the winner of the second race at Randwick, you're going

to be disappointed. Catholic Answers ( has an exhaustive (and exhausting) definition of what infallibility is and isn't.

Not that any of that is likely to persuade that old funster Ian Paisley to change his mind about the papacy, either in this life or the next.

The Reverend Paisley is leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and, er, doesn't have a lot of time for popes or Catholics in general. See for his foaming exposition on why the Pope is the Antichrist.

While paying a visit to Bigotry Central, don't miss the remarkable guestbook - priceless.

And if you were perchance stuck for what to send Ian for Christmas, be sure to consider's beautifully crafted pope on a rope gift (

He could use it to wash out his mouth.

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