Friday, October 12, 2007

My Dad and the Pope

My dad once had a private audience with the Pope. This was a long time ago, when he was still young, just after the Korean War got started. My grandfather was transferred to the embassy in Greece. There you could find the Greek Orthodox Patriarch pretending not to speak English (he had a degree from an Ivy League school) and putting pressure on people to support his return to Asia Minor. He would talk with the young guys on the embassy staff when he was bored.

But the Pope? Especially if you aren't Catholic?

But my dad was very well behaved, so when an Ambassador's daughter needed an escort, he got tapped. They got in line and she had her private audience with the Pope and my dad was attentive and polite. He was ready for anything except when the Pope turned to him and said "and you my son, do you have any questions for me?" and gave him an expectant look. At that point my dad realized that every other group had everyone in it ask the Pope a question. Dad had just expected to be ignored.

He asked his general purpose question: "Does God speak to man" and "How did you know God had called you?" The Pope assured him that God did not speak to man and had not for quite some time. He stated that he knew he had been called when one of the hundreds of doves at the Vatican had landed on his shoulder during the elections. My father nodded politely and returned to being part of the woodwork as an escort.

The Pope's answer had been similar to the Patriarch's who had told him that God did not speak to man, but that since he was the smartest and best prepared person in the world, it was his duty as the Patriarch to lead the people and do his best and work towards miracles (which he achieved, restoring the authority and position of the Patriarchy post World War II).

I must note that my dad was very young, and looked younger, at that time. These are casual conversations by important men, speaking in passing to a young American who was close to being part of the furniture, not in depth discussions held with anyone of significance.


Anonymous said...

I was not sure if the Popes believed God spoke to them or not. One would think I would know that after 12 years of Catholic schooling. He is considered infallible by Catholic Doctrine as far as my understanding goes.

That was an interesting and probably shaping experience for your dad.

Stephen said...

My uncle became Catholic, my dad became LDS. I guess I'll have to write about the first Mormon my dad met, an alcoholic kid far away from home.