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THE BALCONY OF ST. PETER

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balcon san pedro

 

From the chimney of the Sistine Chapel rises white smoke and the bells of St. Peter are pealing out. The Cardinal Protodeacon appears majestically at the balcony of the basilica and announces to the world that the Catholic Church has a new pope. But the name of the newly elected cannot be clearly heard.

The procession cross then appears and behind it the silhouette of someone whose face, because of a problem with lighting, does not show clearly. It seems that it can be detected that he does not wear the usual papal insignia, and maybe he is without even a Roman collar and the white skullcap. He is seen greeting with sweeping gestures the crowd which fills up St. Peter square, and in turn the crowd answers him back with deafening cheers, but also with large interrogation marks in the eyes. And so, who is that pope indeed?

That pope with a vague contour carries a Bible in his hand, opens it and going near the microphones begins to read in a vibrant voice:

- The Spirit of the Lord is upon me...

Then a short silence follows.

- He has appointed me to bring good news to the poor...

He pauses, takes a long respiration and repeats the same sentence by stressing each syllable:

- He has sent me to bring good news to the poor...

The accent is put on the word «poor».

After another pause, the pope goes on with the reading:

- ...to proclaim liberty to captives...He strongly insists on the word «liberty».

Another pause.

- ...to open the eyes of those who are blind...

Another pause.

- ... to let the oppressed go free...

These last words come out of his mouth like a trumpet blast, immediately followed by a second one:

- ... and to proclaim the Lord's Year of Mercy!

A sepulchral silence falls on St. Peter's square. The new pope closes the Bible and says:

- The reading that you have just heard brings back in front of our eyes, in our ears and in our heart what was and still remains the action program of Jesus of Nazareth according to what is reported in the gospel of St. Luke, chapter 4, verses 18 to 21

Then he adds:

- Well, this program is mine. It is yours. It is ours. And TODAY we will put it into practice.

That « TODAY » hits like a Big Bang against the marble colonnades of Bernini. The dome of St. Peter shakes. A thunderous applause rises among the crowd of the poor and their friends. In another section of the crowd, however, disappointment rises to high levels of anger.

- Long live the pope! shout some people.

- Down with the impostor! yell the others.

At that, some cardinals who cannot believe their eyes leave their balcony and rush towards the balcony of the pope. They beg him to correct the bad impression that he has just made. They implore him:

- Your Holiness! You have spoken about the poor and the oppressed, and about liberty and liberation, but, as you can see, that divides instead of uniting! Please, add a few good words of love and peace so that the minds be reassured and hearts be comforted.

The new pope does not listen to those good cardinals. He extends the Bible to them with a big smile, saying:

- It is with the Spirit of God, who, as you may know, is «pure love and pure peace », that Jesus gives us his action program. This program is the one of the Church, it is yours and it is mine. I will not add a single word that would reduce to sweets the creative power of Jesus' words. If you, brother cardinals, prefer rather the little milk than solid food, take this Bible and burn it!

This very minute, a riot, as never seen before, breaks out in the holy place. Red birettas fly in the air, the Swiss guards retreat and the pope nearly falls head first from the balcony.

Eyewitnesses later on certified that only a miracle had saved the pope from such an ordeal.

All over the planet, from St. Peter's square and in front of the screens of hundreds of millions of TV viewers, the question is this: what has just taken place is a hallucination or a manifestation of God? And the answer is a clash of all imaginable opinions bursting like little volcanoes in every corner of the catholic world.

- This new pope is mad, say some.
- A saint, say others.
- At last, a true pope!
- A Third Worldist!
- A prophet !
- A devil!
- An Arab!
- A simple layman!
- An angel!
- No, a woman disguised as a man!
- A marxist!
- A ghastly thing!
- We have seen everything!
- That is the end of the world!

Suddenly, from a loud-speaker coming from nowhere, a charming voice fills up the Heavens and the Earth:

- Rejoice, good people, be happy, the Kingdom of God has arrived among you!

Then a last trumpet blast...

 

Eloy Roy

Translated from the French by Jacques Bourdages

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