TODAY being February 14, I was prepared to give a little history of the Valentine's Day celebration, which has become very popular in Jamaica since the 1980s. I was also prepared to analyse the broadcast to the nation by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Finance Minister Peter Phillips on Monday night. But on Monday morning, hours before the joint broadcast to the nation, we heard the news that Pope Benedict XVI will resign.
The intended resignation is surprising because it is more than 600 years since the last time a Pope resigned, and it is not easy to go against a tradition that spans six centuries. It is amazing that so many did not know that Popes in ancient history had either resigned or were dethroned, yet they can tell you all the bad things that a few Popes did a thousand or more years ago.
In the monarchical culture, kings die on the throne, and the papacy adopted this stance to communicate with that culture which was more in vogue then than now. It is also amazing that so many were calling for the resignation of the late Pope John Paul II as he languished with Parkinson's disease, yet the same people are now in a quandary because of Pope Benedict's resignation. What does this tell you about people, especially the anti-Roman Catholics?
The speculation by media houses has begun about who the new Pope will be. The tendency, at least since the death of Pope John XXIII in 1963, is to speculate about the next Pope being an African, Latin American or non-Italian. In this way, large numbers of Roman Catholics from various ethnic groups buy papers, click into news web sites or tune in to radio or TV, which increases profit from advertisements. Since Pope Benedict is still alive, the media houses should thank him for giving them an opportunity to earn some unexpected money. What will his title be, perhaps Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI?
In 2005, I was a guest on IRIE FM's Running African hosted by Angela Williams Greene to discuss the possibility of an African Pope. I pointed out that there had already been three African Popes in history. In 2005 when I spoke on Running African, the CVM's Impact and RJR's Beyond the Headlines, the USA was yet to have an African-American president (Barack Obama was first elected in 2008). The United Kingdom is yet to have an Afro-British prime minister.
Pope Victor I (185-195 AD) was African. Pope Melchiades (311-314 AD) was African and so was Pope Gelasius I (492-496 AD, born in Italy of African parents). "That was so long ago," you say. Yet the bad things that a few Popes did a millennium and a half ago are mentioned as if it happened yesterday. It was Pope Victor I who decided on the method by which the dates for Easter would be chosen in each year.
Easter, not Christmas, is the biggest celebration in the Roman Catholic Church. Easter is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Both the dates of the observances of Christmas and Easter have nothing to do with factual dates, but an adaptation to Roman culture of the day.
Easter Sunday is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (the first day of Spring, March 21). Roughly 40 days before that is Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent) and two days before Easter Sunday is Good Friday. Pagan Romans worshipped the goddess Eostre (from which the word 'Easter' is derived) at the first full moon at the beginning of Spring.
The advantage of the Feast of the resurrection or Easter Sunday being adjusted to that aspect of Roman culture is that the Romans ceased worshipping the pagan goddess Eostre. Similarly, the advantage of changing the pagan feast of the unconquered sun into Christmas Day was that the Romans no longer worshipped the sun-goddess.
The tradition of changing a feast day into another more important one starts with Almighty God, who had His son Jesus Christ born in Bethlehem literally meaning "House of Bread", which would later be used at the Passover by Jesus Christ, who would at that event institute the Holy Eucharist and the Christian priesthood. The Almighty God Himself also sent the Holy Spirit on the Jewish corn festival known as Fifty days (after the Passover, in Hebrew 'Pentecost") to bring about the birth of the Church.
In Jamaica, Norman Washington Manley changed Empire Day into Labour Day, although he allowed Labour Day to be May 23 while Empire Day was May 24. This was because the modern labour movement started by Sir Alexander Bustamante was on May 23, 1938. Similarly I would love to see the December 26 Boxing Day public holiday changed to Family Day while remaining a public holiday.
No, I do not have a clue as to who the next Pope will be and I will not speculate. The decision as to who will be the next Pope rests with the College of Cardinals. And they will go into deep prayer before and during the voting. The Cardinals can choose any baptised Roman Catholic man, not just a cardinal or clergyman, to be the next Pope.