Dublin: 17 °C Sunday 21 July, 2024
Robert Mugabe, right, at the beatification of Pope John Paul II Anja Niedringhaus/AP/PA Images

Column Cardinal Rules (Part 23) On the beatification of Pope John Paul II

This week, the (not) Primate of All Ireland gives us a peek at his diary from the Vatican last weekend:”We are as excited as a bunch of schoolgirls on their way to a Cliff Richard concert”.

LAST WEEK WAS the best week ever. First I went to the Royal Wedding. Then I headed straight to Rome for the beatification of Pope John Paul II. It was an exciting time, and I have condensed a lot of this excitement into my following diary entries. As you will no doubt agree, the adrenaline is fairly leaping off the page.

Saturday, 6am
Father Lawlor and I fly out from Heathrow with Bishops Moran, Smyth and Byrne. We are as excited as a bunch of schoolgirls on their way to a Cliff Richard concert.

We arrive in the Vatican. The excitement is building. Father Lawlor squeals like a girl.

Open my suitcase to discover the purple socks I packed are not my purple socks. I call Father Lawlor. It turns out he packed my purple socks in his suitcase by mistake.

“I thought they were my purple socks, when they were actually your purple socks.” He laughs. I don’t laugh. I take my purple socks back.

A quick walk around St Peter’s Square with the three bishops and Father Lawlor. We bump into Robert Mugabe. He is with two very large, stern looking gentlemen. Mr Mugabe is very jolly and tells us he is really looking forward to the beatification.

“Were you invited?” asks Bishop Byrne. Mr Mugabe frowns, scribbles something in a notebook, and storms off.

All the cardinals gather to meet with his Holiness. He enters the room and does his customary air guitar to great applause. Then it’s meet and greet with secret handshakes all round.

Now I think they might have been my purple socks after all. I am confused. It must be the excitement.

No sign of Bishop Byrne anywhere. Bit annoyed because this means I will probably have to ring his mammy.

Tea with Bishops Moran and Smyth in a local café. Robert Mugabe is there doing the crossword. Despite his protestations Bishop Moran helps Mr Mugabe with 13 down. Mr Mugabe doesn’t seem as pleased as he should be.


A quick visit to see Pope John Paul II’s coffin. An overcome Father Lawlor knocks on the coffin and shouts, “You were my favourite Pope ever.”

I do a quick look around to make sure nobody has seen, then I drag a sobbing Father Lawlor away.

A vitally important theological meeting. All the cardinals meet to decide who would win in a fight between Jean Luc Picard and Captain Kirk. Agreement seems tantalisingly close until someone mentions “alternate Kirk” from the most recent Star Trek movie. There is an almost schismatic moment when Cardinal Hernandez threatens to walk out. He sits back down when someone reminds him we haven’t had coffee and cake yet.

No sign of Bishop Moran anywhere. Bishop Smyth and I meet Robert Mugabe in an ice cream parlour. We ask him if he or his gentlemen friends have seen Bishop Moran. Bemused looks and head shaking all round. Bishop Smyth comments on Mr Mugabe’s tie, and wonders aloud if it actually goes with his shirt. Mr Mugabe takes out his notebook again, obviously noting Bishop Smyth’s feedback.

An important theological meeting of the cardinals. This time to discuss the canonicity of the Star Wars prequels and subsequent animated spin offs.

Sunday, 5am
A pre-beatification get-together to see if there is any chance of fast tracking Pope John Paul II’s sainthood. In a search for that ever elusive second miracle we watch selections from Il Papa’s seminal goalkeeping coaching video series, “Narrowing the angle with Jesus.”

In it he gives a grateful Dino Zoff and Pat Jennings tips.

Unfortunately there is a section in which he attempts to teach ex-Liverpool goalkeeper David James how to deal with crosses. Lots of groaning as we realise we will have to search elsewhere for our miracle.

Beatification mass practice as we all gather on the altar. Everything going well until Cardinal Simmons fumbles his chalice not unlike David James dealing with a “bread and butter cross.” No one knows where to look. Very embarrassing.

No sign of Bishop Smyth anywhere. Maybe he has gone for a walk to calm down. He was very excited about today.

A brilliant beatification mass only slightly marred by Silvio Berlusconi’s snoring. Robert Mugabe does not look impressed, and I fear Mr Berlusconi will be scolded by him afterwards, and rightly so.

Monday, 9am
I spend the morning ringing Bishops Moran, Smyth and Byrnes’s mammies. I reassure them that they will turn up eventually.

A meeting of all the cardinals is called to decide on a response to recent Church scandals.

Cardinal Cabrini is forthright as he pounds the table with his fist. “It must be direct. It must be transparent. It must be honest. It must be unequivocal.”

We settle on a one sheet with a picture of his Holiness shrugging, and the caption: “Hey, whaddya gonna do.”

Finally make it to the airport. Father Lawlor and I bump into Mr Mugabe in duty free. He is buying loads of jelly babies for the plane. We say our goodbyes. Then I notice Mr Mugabe is wearing purple socks. I wonder if I should say something.

LIVE: (Not) Cardinal Brady’s liveblog from the British royal wedding>

(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady