So, ‘The Rat’ has landed and Pope-o-mania sweeps over our shores. He’s not best impressed by us and the whole equality schtick we’ve been getting on with since the last papal visit in the seventies and it’s clear to see the feeling is mutual.
And the eminent enmity doesn’t stop there as Cardinal Walter Kasper, official Vatican funny man, goes further than holidayers returning from sunnier shores to the overcast fug of depression at Heathrow by saying his experience at landing at the London airport is like landing “in a third world country.”
Of course by this he means that he got off the plane and saw lots of non-white faces, or it was, as the Pope’s spinners put it, “a reference to the diverse, multi-cultural population of Britain.” Still, not to worry, it’s not like he’s the Pope’s top dude for promoting Christian unity or anything.
Some papers say that the comments have caused anger. But they haven’t. Not really. Apathy is the faith system we subscribe to this week. If there is anger, it is only at Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews for failing to ever escalate Father Ted to quite this level of farce.
So, Kasper’s had to sit the visit out now. Taking him along would be obvious PR suicide. And in true Campbellonian tradition The Pope’s “people” say it’s nothing to do with his comments and everything to do with him suffering from gout.
But gout’s something that stays with you and attacks in fits and bursts. Whether he’s had a specific attack the Church wouldn’t say. So is this then a little PR desired white lie? From the Vatican?
There’s no doubt he genuinely suffers from gout, which was probably exacerbated by all that communion wine he’s been choking down over the years. But is it not a coincidence that he gets the sore joints just as the controversy rears its head? And if he were a deeply religious man, would he not be making the connection that maybe a divine hand has passed a mysterious and sharply painful judgement on his words?
Of course Kasper the Holy Ghost has probably missed the irony of his comments: I went to one place that was just like a third world country in the sense that, just like those Central American countries characterised in poverty and vulnerability, and brown faces, this place was 100% Catholic. It was called the Vatican City.
If Kasper thinks brown faces makes something third world, he might want to look again at the membership of his church and the 8 or 9 mouths many of them are expected to feed in Africa and Latin America, all of whom have helped keep Kasper and his Vatican colleagues living in the standard to which they are accustomed.