Dressed in gold robes and shielded from a cool drizzle by a canopy, Benedict looked weary as he listened to Sodano's speech at the start of Mass in the cobblestone square bedecked with daffodils, tulips and azaleas.
''With this spirit today we rally close around you, successor to (St.) Peter, bishop of Rome, the unfailing rock of the holy church,'' Sodano said. ''Holy Father, on your side are the people of God, who do not allow themselves to be influenced by the petty gossip of the moment, by the trials which sometimes buffet the community of believers.''The thought has begun to cross my mind that Cardinal Sodano and all the others who most ardently sing the praises of B16 know full well what they are doing: making a dirge from the sidelines of his cart ride to the gallows. This could be the most genteel throwing of anyone under a bus that has ever been performed. Perhaps the hierarchy has decided that Pope Difficult the Last needs to go, and that the only way to do it is to magnify the absurdity of the situation. As tone deaf as these men can be, surely they know the meaning of the deaf ear.
Does this pope, like Miss Diana Ross, still believe he can pack an arena and sell out a world tour? Granted, he's got Sodano and another 170 cardinals singing back-up.
According to the report there were only tens of thousands in attendance. In my day, whenever we did one of those outdoor papal masses - we called them papal picnics - the faithful numbered in the hundreds of thousands.
Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?