Curious reticence


A kind reader has asked why Frank never replies to Justin.

My immediate answer would be that Francis is not known for replying to anyone. But events suggest another possible reason.

This blog is honoured, from time to time, by a visitor from the Vatican City. The appearance of the Vatican flag in the list of those accessing the site is not random. It relates directly to the subject matter of the post in question, in a way which suggests not curiosity but surveillance. Perhaps Frank goes in fear of leaks and curial dirty-tricks?

In any case, for the avoidance of doubt, will the mystery visitor please make himself known. His identity will, of course, be treated in the strictest confidence.

Retirement advice


Dear Frank,

I am truly sorry to hear that you are planning on retirement. I had hoped that we might have a few more years of mutual support and collaboration.

Three Popes simultaneously will, of course, be a novelty for us Anglicans to wrap our minds around!

But we do have plenty of experience of retired Archbishops. I have two living predecessors – and to tell the truth it’s a mixed blessing.

Rowan, of course, is conspicuously well-behaved. Which is a good job because he is a great deal cleverer than me. (You will understand my position entirely). George, on the other hand, is a pain in the episcopal neck. He has opinions about everything and no shame in declaring them. I wouldn’t mind; but he lost the plot years ago, poor thing, and his determination to hang around on the lunatic fringe of public life is a real problem.

I speak as a friend when I say that I am not at all convinced that you are cut out to be a Pontifical retiree. I mean, could you keep your mouth shut? Which after all is the prime requirement. Of course, you can stack the College of Cardinals and ensure that you get a like-minded successor. (Popes are the only people living who can manufacture their own life after death.) But are you cut out to be a pious recluse?

My advice is: don’t do it. Death in office, followed almost instantly by beatification is hugely to be prefered. And I am sure that you can engineer a successor who will do that for you.

I hope you will treat this advice as confidential. The Vatican is a wicked place, as far as I can see. Leaks, dear boy!

Your friend and confidant,


Happy Day!


It is with great joy that this blog is able to report that rumours of the tragic death of Pope Francis have been hugely exaggerated. In consequence, there has been no election of a successor.

Though Fr Antonio Spadaro admits that an ‘incident’ did take place on board a 747, he informs us that the Holy Father escaped ‘virtually unscathed’. The news of the Pope’s demise is therefore FAKE NEWS, attributed by Vatican sources to computers in Albania, ‘belonging to rogue elements close to Cardinal Burke’.

Said Fr Thomas Rosica: ‘After examination by his physicians, the Pope is back at his desk, pursuing the reforms the Church so desperately needs, and prosecuting all forms of retrospectivism and rigidity.’

Sic transit


The conclave which was hastily convened after the sudden tragic death of Pope Francis has concluded quickly.

Francis went out in an event which has been seen on video by over two billion people, when law enforcement officers dragged him screaming from a Boeing 747 bound for Mecca, where he was hoping to celebrate Easter.

According to a statement from an airline executive, Francis had refused to take his seat. ‘We can’t have people just standing in the aisle, entertaining other passengers and giving unsolicited media interviews,’ said a spokesperson. Pope Francis fell on the steps of the aircraft, as transport police forcibly removed him.

The new Pope, who emerged after only two hours of deliberation, is Cardinal Robert Sarah, who gave his blessing from the loggia of St Peter’s Basilica this evening. He has taken the name Benedict XVII.

In an interview for German television (which has since been removed from Youtube after a storm of protest), Cardinal Walter Kasper described the election as ‘a black day for the Catholic Church’.



Impressed in bronze on a medal placed on the chest of Czar Nicholas I as he lay in his coffin was an image of Hagia Sophia, the mother church of Orthodoxy.

Readers of Patrick Leigh Fermor will remember the dream sequence in which the old fisherman of the Mani imagines himself part of a great armada which retakes Constantinople and re-establishes the empire of the Romans.

No one can doubt the symbolic resonance of Justinian’s church and the dome of Isidore and Anthemius.

Which is why we should be shocked that President Erdoğan of Turkey and members of his government are preparing to say Muslim prayers in Hagia Sophia (which has been a museum since the days of Ataturk) on Good Friday.

No act of aggression could speak more powerfully of the antipathy towards Christianity which animates so much of Muslim culture.