The Papal conclave will begin on 18th April. The funeral of John Paul II is on the 8th of April. That's 10 days of some of the rawest politics around - lobbying, positioning and posing without being seen to do so. Its a real skill. What I would give to be a fly on the wall.
There is a lot of nonsense going on about all of this in the press. For example, there was a report last evening that a Canadian Cardinal was a papabili - electable as Pope. What a lot of nonsense. While in theory, any Catholic could be elected, there is a top ten list (all on the list are Cardinals - Schwarzenneger didn't make it!) and this particular Cardinal is not on any of the major lists. We are talking Marc Cardinal Ouellet of Quebec City - he only became a bishop in 2001 and cardinal in 2003. At 60, he's too young to follow a pope who rose to the job in 1978 and served 26 years, the third longest term in church history. The Conclave will go for an older guy and probably an Italian (Tettamanzi of Milan is still my favoured candidate, though Ratzinger is running a solid race - it will be one of the two. Ratzinger looks like he has it sown up at this stage, but Tettamanzi has the slightly more liberal bent..may replace Cardinal Martini as the liberal choice).
There is also some talk about the gag order imposed by the curia - none of the conclave cardinals (there are 117 or so of them) are permitted to speak to the press. The American cardinals are said to be "upset" by this. I doubt it. More accurately: the American press are upset by this.
Still, the race is on. If you want to get a feel for what it will be like, read Andrew Grealey's White Smoke - he was the only commentator to predict John Paull II's election 26 years ago and this is a good novel. There is also a novel called Conclave which is well worth it too..
Speaking of novels, I finished One Step Behind by Henning Mankell - an especially compelling mystery with Wallander as the central figure (in more ways than one). Have to start scouting around for something else to read - I am thinking if Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, which I read 20 years ago and enjoyed. Must take a second look.
Jamaica this coming week-end. Can't wait!