I have always been fascinated by rites and rituals. Just seeing a priest strolling down the centre aisle in church – swinging those little canisters (releasing the obnoxious fumes which are meant to stun the congregation into submission), or watching Showerhead dancing in full traditional Zulu regalia (complete with leopard skin, *duck glassis, and Nike takkies), fills me with wonder.
Few rituals on Earth, however, can compare with the show that is staged by the Roman Catholic Church when a new Pope is elected. The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games doesn’t even come close. Now that Pope Benedict XVI has resigned, I’m gleefully anticipating the spectacle of seeing all those cardinals, in their **gay dresses, choosing his successor.
One of the most famous traditions of the papal succession ritual is the appearance of smoke from the chimney of the room (conclave), where the voting takes place. The cardinals conduct a secret ballot until someone receives a vote of two-thirds plus one. The ballots are burned after each vote. Black smoke indicates a failed ballot; white smoke means a new pope has been elected. Since the cardinals meet in isolation, it's the only way to inform the public about the proceedings.
After this, the new Pope goes out on the balcony, and blesses the people who have been waiting for heaven knows how long. Everyone is happy. At least, that’s what it looks like to me.
Now, there are rumours that a home-grown Pope, from our own Zumania, might be next in line for this stately job.
Can you imagine electing a Pope; the “South African” way?
First, the “cardinals” wearing red T-shirts, waving knobkerries and pangas, toi-toi down the main street – trashing the area – damaging public and private property; whilst robbing street vendors of their wares.
“We demand a new Pope! We demand a new Pope!” they sing.
Next, they break down the doors to City Hall and pack its insides to the brim. The reporters, cops, and those who are stuck in the traffic outside, impatiently wait for smoke to come out of the chimney.
At last, smoke rises to the heavens. But, much to everyone’s dismay, the smoke is black!
“Demmit! That’s BEE smoke,” says a farmer, from Bronkhorstspruit, who has been sitting inside his bakkie for hours. “I’m leaving for Australia.”
“No, it’s not BEE,” replies his brother, “They’re just burning some tyres, as usual.”
The wait continues for hours. The crowd dances, sings struggle songs, and stone the cops. The cops shoot and kill a couple. Everyone is happy.
And then, just when the sun is about to set, white smoke slowly curls towards the skies.
“It is white! That’s racist smoke!” shouts someone in the crowd. “Kill the farmer, kill the Boer.”
“Calm down, wena,” says Archbishop Tutu, “the vottas are smoking zol. This is an old tradition of our Rainbow Nation.”
After a while the new Pope emerges from the building.
“I’ll give you jobs, houses, and farms, if you vote for the ANC,” he says to the mindless mass of ***pee pull. “If you don’t, God and his ancestors will be very angry with you.”
He gets into his luxury car. The Blue Light Brigade starts up and race towards the Pope’s compound in Nkandla – endangering the lives of all road users. Everyone is happy. At least, that’s what Mac Maharaj says.
*duck glassis – dark glasses
**gay – I’m not implying that the cardinals are moffies
***pee pull –from Latin, meaning: pee pull, or “those who breed like flies”
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