Sunday, March 10, 2013

Dan Brown and Papal Intrigues

by Pa Rock

The election of a new Pope is a very complicated and secretive process.    The 115 voting Cardinals will be locked in a room where they will talk and vote until one of their number receives a majority of the votes and is declared the successor to the throne of St. Peter - and immediately becomes infallible.

Traditionally the Cardinals have been held incommunicado so that they cannot receive any influences from the outside world during the voting process.   That process also makes for high drama on the outside as the world waits in breathless anticipation to learn who will emerge as the leader of the world's Catholics.

The most widely known tidbit about the process is that the Cardinals vote on paper ballots, and those ballots are burned after each attempt to elect a Pope.    The smoke from the ballot fires exits through a designated chimney.  When the Cardinals have failed to elect a Pope, the smoke is black, but when a new Pope is finally determined, special chemicals are added to the burning ballots to create a white smoke.   White smoke, new Pope, and the crowds in St. Peter's Square go nuts.

But there is a lot more to the process than just the color of the smoke.  Recently there have been several news stories about the measures that the Church and its police force, the Swiss Guards, are taking to insure that the Red Caps can do their business in secrecy.   Cell phones have been banned - and although the Cardinals will not be frisked, members of the Vatican staff will be.  Jamming devices have also been installed to prevent eavesdropping on the deliberations and to keep those inside from communicating with those outside.   Opaque plastic sheeting has been placed over the windows in the conclave area to keep the paparazzi from trying to snap pictures of the Cardinals as they do their business.

All of this Papal election business has put me in mind of a very good novel by Dan Brown.  Mr. Brown, best known for The DaVinci Code, had an earlier book also featuring the same central character, Robert Langdon.  The first book, Angels and Demons, involved the College of Cardinals being held captive by a sinister force as they were meeting to elect a new Pope.  

I have read both books, and found Angels and Demons to be much more enlightening and entertaining than the blockbuster The DaVinci Code - though both will keep the reader busy turning pages very late into the night!

Since we obviously can't get a peek into the Vatican during this historic election process, Angels and Demons has a "you are there" quality to it that offers readers a decent sense of the place and the process.  This would be a great time to read the book - or re-read it - or at least rent the movie.

1 comment:

Stuck60 said...

Read both books. Like you, I enjoyed Angels the most.