Cardinals will flock to rome to elect a new Pope, a new leader for a new time.

Pope Benedict
Pope Benedict


 Five-ninety-eight. At the outset, sounds like a price tag, doesn’t it?

Well, put aside price tags and think in terms of centuries. That properly emphasizes the span of time since a pope has “stepped aside” of his own free will from papal leadership, thus introducing worldwide speculation as to his successor.

Just think—if Pope Benedict had held on for two more years, exactly six centuries would have passed since Pope Gregory XII took his big step of resignation in 1415.


   The current decision lights up “c” words that will appear in news accounts associated with the election of a new pontiff. Some we’ll have to “dust off.” Get ready for words like “conclave, college, cardinals, chapel and candidates.”

One newspaper headline decrees “Cardinals Will Flock to Rome” to name their new leader.

Such headlines, and attendant coverage of the process, will cause considerable “head-scratching,” particularly by youngsters who read—and hear—mostly in spurts. One third-grader didn’t find the headline surprising. “Another headline said the Cardinals are flying to Rome,” he said, “and why wouldn’t they?


   “Alleged precedence” could dampen hopes of Cardinal Angelo Scola to become the 267th pope. His “current” name could present a problem.

Accounts abound that a candidate named “Zacola” thought he had a great chance to head the Roman Catholic Church a few decades ago.

Alas, some compassionate cardinals confided that “Pope Zacola” would sound too much like a soft drink.


   Truth to tell, former names are put aside by newly-elected popes. Indeed, they can christen themselves whatever they please. Dating back to St. Peter, the first Pope elected in 37 AD, there have been 21 choices for “John,” 16 for “Gregory,” 15 for “Benedict” and 14 for “Clement.” There’ve been 13 popes to choose “Innocent” and a like number for “Leo.” Twelve went for “Pius,” 9 for “Stephen” and 8 each for “Boniface” and “Urban.”

While most popes have served until their final breath, about two dozen have died violently. Particularly noted is the demise of St. Peter, who was crucified upside down by Roman authorities.

Understandably, he is one of 42 pontiffs with names not chosen by successors across the centuries.


   Naming of a new pope offers the possibility of hopeful news around the globe. We could use some.

It could be that the College of Cardinals might make short work of the process. After all, they’ve often dragged their feet, sending black smoke from the Sistine Chapel to mark the end of another fruitless day.

What with all the “green” activists casting watchful eyes on pollution, cardinals may send up white smoke on the very first day.


   But seriously, folks, Pope Benedict’s surprising decision is admirable. When health issues are overwhelming, it is the sensible thing to do.

When one feels he or she can no longer be of service – whatever the reason – little is nobler than turning duties over to others.

It’s just not often seen, but absolutely refreshing when it is.


   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Speaking inquiries/email to: [email protected] Phone: 817-447-3872. Twitter: @donnewbury. Web site:

ref=sib_dp_kd-1Humorist Don Newbury is author of When The Porch Light’s On. Please click the book cover to read more about the book or purchase a copy direct from Amazon.


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