A Conclave is no place for virtuoso Cardinals

I never thought I would say this, but I'm getting sick of the paintings on the Sistine Chapel ceiling

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I am happy to present a report today from inside the Sistine Chapel, from our very own mole. Come in, Cardinal Talpa!

I am happy to present a report today from inside the Sistine Chapel, from our very own mole. Come in, Cardinal Talpa!

Day One

This is my first time as a Cardinal Elector. I feel the weight of history on my shoulders. When we were locked in, and the mighty key turned in the mighty lock in the mighty door, I prayed to God: "Oh, God, let me choose wisely, but above all, let it not be me. Do not let me be chosen as Pope !"

An elderly cardinal said to me, as I prayed: "I would not waste time praying, if I were you. God does not have a vote. Nor does he care who is Pope. Just get out more, and meet the other voters."

It is true. I do not know all the other cardinals. As we have colour-coded lapel badges to indicate what language we speak, I singled out a cardinal who spoke Italian and English like me. "It is no use asking me to vote for you," he said. "I have already promised to vote for five other candidates. I fear I am too soft for this game."

"I do not want to have your vote," I said. "I only want to do the right thing."

"We all want to do the right thing," said Cardinal Bambazzini, which is the name on his lapel badge. "That is why we joined the Church. I have been doing the right thing for 40 years. That is why I have already promised to vote for five other candidates. All right, I will vote for you as well..."

"But I do not want to be Pope!" I said.

"That's what they all said too," he said. "By the way, do you know where the loo is? There are too many old men in here. I do not want to be another Paula Radcliffe."

I have no idea what he is talking about. I shall avoid him in future.

Later ...

I was approached by a cardinal who said it was very important that the next Pope should be Italian. Like himself.

"You would like to be Pope?" I said.

"I only want to do the right thing," said Cardinal Mezzoforte (the name on his lapel badge). "I think my policies would be wise."

"Policies?" I said, trying to think what to ask him. "So what would you do about education? Or crime? Or pensions?"

"Pensions?!" he said, rather loudly. "What need have we of pensions? To be a cardinal is pension enough!"

I shall avoid him in future.

Later...

An American cardinal approached me. I asked him if he wanted to be Pope. "Sure thing," he said. "We all want to be Pope. That's why we're here. No point signing on for the ship if you don't want to be captain one day. Vote for me, pal!"

"I am not sure we are ready for an American Pope yet," I said. "It does not seem right."

"Listen, I'm not sure we are really ready for an Italian Pope yet," he retorted. "There's nothing in the Bible about the Pope having to be Italian. Where I grew up in America, to be Italian was to be a Mafioso! To be American was top. Think about it, fellow."

In future, I shall try to avoid Cardinal Have-A- Nice-Day (the name on his lapel badge).

Later...

I never thought I would say this, but I am getting sick of the paintings on the Sistine Chapel ceiling and I am getting a very sore neck. Some of the figures are not nice at all. That elderly cardinal I first met strolled over just now and said: "Yes, extraordinary faces some of them, aren't they ? But not half as extraordinary as some of the crazy cardinals we've got in here." and he strolled off again.

I think I would do well to avoid him. And all of them.

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