Saturday, November 26, 2005

Anna's Popes

My children both attend a Catholic school, although I'm not Catholic. (Their father, who is an atheist, was raised Catholic, but more of that later.)

Last year, when Anna was an impressionable five years old, the beloved Pope John Paul II died. There were pictures adorning the walls of her school and many prayers said. To me, this was all good.

But it also happened that her dad and I were heading to Rome two days after the pope's funeral, and would be there during the election for a new pope. This was completely unplanned.

When I asked the children what they'd like us to bring back for them from Rome, Anna immediately said a picture of the pope. And just in case there was any mistake, she clarified: The dead one.

We brought back the picture and she delighted in putting it up over her bed. She even took to kissing it on occasion.

One time, I invoked the poor deceased pope's name when she was naughty. I said what would the pope say if he saw you do that? She said: Nothing. He loves children.

Soon, the Globe and Mail was advertising a new book about the new pope, Benedict XVI. His picture was on the front cover of the book section. Anna made me cut it out so she could tape that to her wall as well. Her dad was a little distressed, said he thought something was seriously wrong -- most parents complain of their daughters plastering the walls with rock star's pictures, whereas his daughter was in love with popes.

When we were in Washington, DC, at the Smithsonian museum of air and space, and walking along the second floor. Anna looked over the half wall to the first floor. Spying an orthodox Jewish man with yarmulke walking below her, she yelled out: Look, there's a pope. Then she saw his son walking beside him, also with a yarmulke. She said: Oh, and a little pope.

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