Two funerals, a wedding and a horse race

news: Two funerals, a wedding and a horse race

Skip Bandele reflects on life and his world – as he sees it.

AHEAD of my main topics this week, a brief postscript to my latest deliberations in a ‘A world of hurt’ (The Resident April 8). Only two in five people apparently say “I love you” to their partners every day, claims a survey designed to castigate the other three. So what? Surely doing it, living it, showing it and, above all, meaning it, is far more important!

This sentiment does not include the woman sacked by B&Q recently for selling sex at a tenner a time. She was doing something – exactly what I am not sure – but certainly it had nothing to do with love, especially in light of the fact that the lady in question was found with £1,000 in her overalls at the end of one night’s shift – you work it out!

Vis-à-vis the officially sanctioned killing of criminals, latest figures from Amnesty International show that 7,395 people were condemned to death in 2004, of whom 3,797 were actually executed. This orchestrated slaughter took place in 25 countries worldwide, China being, by far, the worst offender with 3,400 cases. Yes China, the land opening itself to international business, attracting attention by staging its first Grand Prix last year and the host of the 2007 Women’s World Cup and 2008 Olympics. Iran came second in this league of horror with a “mere” 159 cases, followed by Vietnam and the United States.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission also reports that the death penalty still applies in 120 countries and that many carry out secret executions. This is not love either.

But let me turn to more light-hearted material. Two weeks ago, the two smallest states in the world lost their leaders. Prince Rainier, Europe’s longest ruling monarch, famed for his ill-fated marriage to Grace Kelly, died in Monaco. Pope John Paul II’s demise after a long illness was mourned by the Vatican and millions of Catholics the world over.

The succession in Monaco will be a relatively simple affair, unlike the power struggle that has ensued in Rome. Karol Wojtyla, as the Pope was known in his previous life in Poland, was seen by many as a saintly man devoted to God and the Church. But only a man, none the less. Achieving the office of Archbishop of Krakow and subsequently the Papacy was no mean feat for a clergyman of humble beginnings.It must be assumed that he was just as adept at political manoeuvring as his predecessors and, indeed, those that seek to follow him.

The creation of the independent city state of the Vatican was itself a political compromise suggested by none other than the young Benito Mussolini, when the Catholic Church threatened to ex-communicate the entire Italian population in the 30s.

The battle behind the scenes, until white smoke is seen over the Sistine Chapel, is intense. Some bookmakers have Cardinal Francis Amnze from Nigeria as their favourite, but I cannot see the Church ready to adopt its first black African Pope since Gelasius back in 492 – beatified father or not! The “home banker” is the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Diogini Tettamanzi, an influential 71-year-old conservative. The job is his for the taking, but my instinct tells me he will prefer to remain the power behind the throne, rather than the puppet on it.

John Paul II reigned for a long time and did what the Vatican expected from his appointment – bringing Eastern Europe back into the fold after the Iron Curtain fell. The growth area, Latin America, is the new Eldorado of lost souls and, while Italian ‘strong men’, such as Tettamanzi and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State, continue to hold the strings, a geographically representative figurehead is needed to boost ‘sales’.

The Archbishop of Sao Paolo, Claudio Hummes, is one such candidate. However, although enormously popular in Brazil, he may be considered a little too old at 70, and his liberal and radical stance, coupled with the fact that he is a Franciscan, seriously prejudice his chances.

More likely to fit the bill is Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodrigues Maradiaga, the 62-year-old Archbishop of Tegucigalpa from Honduras. Seen as a rising star in the church, Maradiaga is a classically trained pianist and has campaigned with rock legend, Bono, against Third World debt. If there has to be a Pope, he is my choice.

It may be that the Honduran is in need of some grooming in the ways of Rome, in which case Germany’s Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is the perfect caretaker during what, in effect, will be a period of transition. The former Archbishop of Munich is not only the Deacon of the College of Cardinals, but also the prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and one of John Paul II’s closest former advisers. Alone his age, 77, precludes him from entertaining any long-term personal ambitions.

A race of a different sort took place in Windsor – the race to the altar. The “will they, won’t they”, “can they, can’t they” saga of the proposed marriage between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles seemed to go on forever – until finally consummated on Grand National Day, forcing that other great race to be delayed by an hour.

Constitutional and legal wrangles had preceded the event that is seen by many as a slap in the face for the late Princess Diana, the Prince of Wales’ first wife. Re-scheduled from the previous day (the Pope’s funeral got in the way), the “yes” word was finally heard in a civil ceremony, and Charles and Camilla were united after what must go down in history as one of the longest courtships ever.

The British people and the world in general were less than impressed. Many think it would have been more appropriate for Camilla to come under starters orders at Aintree, while I think Charles should run for Pope – the walls of the Vatican providing shelter for the troubled royal. The thought of Camilla as Queen at King Charles’s side does not appeal, and it is likely that the current heir to the English throne will forego that honour in favour of his eldest son.

The international press was less restrained. In typically outspoken manner, The Australian wrote: “Does history record a less distinguished, less talented family than the royals?” The South China Post said that “most British people cannot stomach Camilla”, and Spain’s El Mundo quoted one woman calling Charles and Camilla “two adulterers who have caused much damage”. “Wedding without lustre” was the headline in the monarchist daily ABC. The list of derisory comments is long…

I say, let them get on with it, let them be happy if they can. But I also say, let them take a leaf out of a certain other failed monarch’s book, get out of the public eye and the public’s pocket, and move to the Caribbean (or Timbuktoo) for some peace and quiet.

Finally, that race in Liverpool, much more able to capture the public’s imagination, proved to be a dignified and heroic affair. No one died, the right horse won in a manner that left no room for discussion, and the aptly named Royal Auclair finished second. Clan Royal did lead at one stage but got carried out, something that should have happened to the House of Windsor a long time ago. A papal representative was not sighted.