From January 13 (my birthday) to January 20, 2013, the seventy “Senior Elders” from Nigeria held all-night vigils at St. Peter’s Square, Rome, as supplicants. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, overwhelmed us all by his beneficence and goodwill. However, he gently admonished us: “The God we worship does not encourage selfish prayers. You should pray for others, not yourselves.” It was a salutary intervention and wake up call. What was truly amazing was that the more earnestly we prayed for others, especially the poor and the downtrodden, the more the Almighty blessed us!
The Pope, regardless of his exalted office, gave us his time and attention. However, he spoke mostly in Latin and would occasionally switch to classical New Testament Greek. Hence, some of the message may have been lost in translation. I shall endeavour to paraphrase the solemn essence of the spiritual warning: “Having attained the age of seventy, all that is left is for you to prepare for the next stage – the journey to heaven. No more chasing of money, power or sex. This is the time for devotion to prayers and the uplift of the spirit as well as the preparation of the soul for self-accounting before God.” The pontiff was clearly disturbed about the state of affairs in the Vatican and in Nigeria (indeed Africa) plus the rest of the world.
Pope Benedict XVI is an outstanding intellectual in his own right. It is common knowledge that he would have been much more at ease as a university professor of Philosophy. Conversely, his illustrious predecessor, Pope John Paul II, would have excelled as an actor with the world as his stage. Be that as it may, the Holy Father declared: “In the Vatican, we are surrounded by saints.” However, he added, sotto voce: “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” The pontiff was quoting Oscar Wilde, the Oxford University-educated playwright.
At the stroke of midnight, the Holy Father delivered his blessings: “Dear brothers and sisters, what matters to God is not the colour of the skin but the darkness of the soul.” We were all somewhat intrigued and utterly perplexed when the Holy Father delivered his parting shot: “Before the month is over, one of you will betray me.” Lent would soon commence and it is only now, with the benefit of hindsight, that we can capture the numerous hints dropped by the Pope that this may not be his last Easter on earth but it would be unforgettable – almost an earthquake in the history of Catholicism, the Church and Christianity.
In the morning, the Vatican presented each of us with a copy of the report from The Nation on Sunday, with the headline: “Over 40% of Nigerians Are Hungry, Says Expert”. The report highlighted that according to a university professor, Babatope Alabadan, “Efforts by successive governments at addressing food security in the country are yet to provide the desired result as over 40 percent of Nigerians do not have sufficient food on daily basis.” The professor also added that globally, over 800 million people, including 300 million children, go to bed hungry daily due to food insecurity.
Here we are in March, and in England, prior to the election of Pope Francis I, there was heavy expectation that the next Pope may be a Canadian. It was typical of the Editor of Private Eye magazine (Ian Hislop) to launch a ballistic missile: “The new Pope at the Bank of England Mark Carney is a Canadian. To complete the double, we need a Canadian in the Vatican.” This had prompted intense global interest in the strategic thinking of the incoming governor of the Bank of England.
On CNN, Carney, who succeeds Mervyn King in July, launched a scathing attack on the “heads-I-win-tails-you-lose” culture that has destroyed trust in banks around the world. He told the bankers: “One of you will betray me. Some will even argue that the deed has been done already. What is beyond dispute is that the significant loss of trust in major financial systems has deepened the cost of the crisis and is restraining the pace of the recovery. The reforms outlined by the G20 will not be sufficient to restore faith in the banks and bankers. We need to do a great deal more. Until recently, too few bankers acknowledged their role in the fiasco. The time for remorse is far from over.”
However, the anchorman of “Quest Means Business”, Richard Quest, reminded him that this was a contradiction of what the former boss of Barclays had told members of the British Parliament on January 13, 2011: “The time for remorse and apology by banks over their role in the financial crisis should end.”
Carney was formerly at Goldman Sachs before joining the Bank of Canada, in addition to being the chairman of the Financial Stability Board. He is only 47 years old. His wife Diana is English. As governor of the Bank of England, his salary will be about £900,000 per annum. The rest of his deposition is available. Part of it reads: “Bonds of trust between banks and their depositors, clients, investors and regulators have been shaken by the mismanagement of banks and, on occasion, the malfeasance of their employees. Over the past year the questions of competence have been supplanted by questions of conduct. These abuses have raised fundamental doubts about the core values of financial institutions. Trust arrives on foot, but leaves in a Ferrari, and the Ferrari screeched out of the parking lot in 2008.”
Like 9/11, the day when terrorists struck in New York and Washington DC, 2/11 (the date when Pope Benedict XVI resigned) has become a global reference point. It has been followed by mysterious happenings all over the world. Entries are coming into the Vatican from all over the world. From Florida, here is an entry by Tamara Lush: “Man Swallowed by Hole May Never Be Found”. It was the story of Jeff Bush, 37, who was on his bed one night when the earth opened and took him and everything else in his room in Hillsborough County, Florida, where sinkholes are said to be so common that state law requires home insurers to provide coverage against the danger.
As for the chartered accountants who have been protesting in St. Peter’s Square against the four firms who have over-dominated the accountancy profession, the Holy Father has undertaken to introduce them to his successor, through his secretary, Archbishop Georg Ganswein (nicknamed “Gorgeous George” by the Vatican press), who will remain as prefect of Papal Household. There are two “dynamite reports” which the Holy Father will hand over to his successor. One is by the chartered accountants who are advocating a maximum of two terms of five years each for the new Pope! Renewal of the first term would depend on independent performance evaluation. The second report is a secret dossier prepared by three trusted aides of Pope Benedict following the “Vatileaks” prosecution of the papal butler (Paolo Gabriele) who leaked secret documents to journalists. According to journalist Carlo Polititi, “It is explosive. It’s all about intrigue and infighting within the Vatican as well as reports concerning paedophile priests, homosexuality, corruption, cover-up and money-laundering.”
Long before the rest of the world knew of Pope Benedict’s resignation, he had been dropping hints to his “Dear brothers and sisters from Nigeria”, thus: “I pledge my unconditional reverence and obedience to my successor. There is no returning to private life. I no longer wield the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter’s bounds. But I know one of you will betray me.”