How Great He Art

The PJP2 greatness snowball careens unstoppably into our view of the past. Once his greatness reaches a certain point, the question no longer involves whether he was great or not, but just rather how incredibly great he actually was. And then we end up mulling over other questions, like what does it mean to be great anyway, and what would you need to do these days in order to be great? Who are the obvious candidates for greatness now that PJP2 has hung up his, er, stole?

Anyway, Michael Ross, commentator for The Sunday Times Culture magazine (as that is the only thing I know about him) told us that he is rather uneasy with the media attention being given to the Pope’s (GOD BLESS HIM) death:

‘The way in which the media has come to feast on public emotion, exploiting and even manipulating it, ultimately for commercial ends, is rivalled only by the way in which the public demands to ventilate its feelings, all the more so as its responses have become disconnected from reality.’

Which is a reasonable and considered comment, but as with ‘we Irish’ in Brenda Power’s piece in the same edition, I found myself wondering who this ‘public’ is, and why I have no interaction with it. It appears his idea of ‘the public’ is based on the media representation of the same, and he draws his conclusions accordingly. Rather than the borderline indifference expressed by most, (it hasn’t caused us to forget about Jamie Oliver’s school dinners for example) the public reaction, and by extension the public itself, is defined, framed and captured by the exuberant reactions of the few.

So on to Mr Ross’s two cents on PJP2’s greatness:

‘Even those who did not share his beliefs would surely acknowledge that the greatness of John Paul II consisted [i.e. his greatness is now beyond question, all that remains is to define it], above all else, in his refusal to bend to this relativist culture of unearned feeling. ‘

Ugh. So that was why he wanted to canonise Mother Theresa, then. I glanced upwards to AA Gill’s television column on the same page for a little relief, and it arrived, at last:

‘He started off as a good man, then a good pope, then a great pope, pope of the century, one of the greatest popes ever and ended up on Fox News as the greatest human being in the history of human beings and an uber-pontiff for all mankind. You could almost hear the Hollywood producers saying: “Hey, do you think there’s a movie in this Pope guy? See what Bruce Willis’s availability is. Maybe Mel will direct”’

Maybe there is a God after all.

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