Tag Archives: pope

Papa Fan: A Satirist for the Modern Papacy

Thanks to a tip from Ross, I have for some time been following a very funny fotolog by Francesco Rabaglia, aka Papa Fan (papa is Italian for pope, differentiated from papà – dad – by the stress). It’s hard to see the humor unless you understand Italian well: basically the writer is putting funny captions Read More…

Thanks to a tip from Ross, I have for some time been following a very funny fotolog by Francesco Rabaglia, aka Papa Fan (papa is Italian for pope, differentiated from papà – dad – by the stress). It’s hard to see the humor unless you understand Italian well: basically the writer is putting funny captions in heavily “Germanized” Italian on photos of Pope Benedict (also known in Italy as Papa Ratzi).

A few days ago he published an original poem, translated here with permission. Keep in mind that this is not quite normal Italian – there are no Ks in Italian, but they are often used in humor and comics to denote a German accent.

Io zone joseph ratzinger, zon ztate porporato I am Joseph Ratzinger, I was empurpled [made cardinal]
i signori kartinali poi mi hanno kandidato the lord cardinals then made me a candidate
per difentare pape e komandar tutto il papato to become pope and command all the papacy
e per piu’ di tre motivi me lo zone meritato And for more than three reasons I have earned this
il primo è ke ho koperto kolui ke era indagato The first is that I covered he who was under investigation
per motivi di stupro e di abuso reiterato for reasons of rape and repeated abuse
su pimpi e su minori, da parte del prelato of children and minors, on the part of the priesthood
dimentikate tutto: il fatto non c’è ztato Forget all that: the fact never occurred
zekonde: io zono zolo un umìle servitoreh Second: I am a humble servant
nella distesa vigna che zta a kaza del signoreh in the extensive vineyards of the house of the Lord
produce fino autoctono in krante quantitah producing local wines in great quantity
ne bevo fenti litri ad ogni messa qui in cittàh I drink twenty liters at every mass here in town
per terzo poi io kredo ke zi debba ritornare For third, then, I believe we must return
alla messa tridentina abrogando la volgare To the Tridentine mass, abrogating the vulgar / Vulgate
linguaccia italiana ke io ti foglio tagliare horrible Italian language that I want to cut
kozì recito latino e vi pozzo coglionareh So I recite Latin and can make fools of you.

The Papal Funeral Bash

I’m not going to say much about this; I wasn’t there, and ignored it as far as possible. The only footage I actually watched was on the Daily Show. But I do have a few items: Early last week, I was riding the bus down to Lecco, at my usual time when it’s full of Read More…

I’m not going to say much about this; I wasn’t there, and ignored it as far as possible. The only footage I actually watched was on the Daily Show. But I do have a few items:

Early last week, I was riding the bus down to Lecco, at my usual time when it’s full of schoolkids. One girl was on her cellphone. “She only goes to mass ogni morte di papa!” she exclaimed, completely without irony, –nd now she wants to go to the funeral!”

Indeed, many of the Italians who traveled to Rome for the funeral probably don’t go regularly to Mass. I won’t presume to comment on why they went to the Pope’s funeral, except that Ross told me that some of her peers came back with cellphone photos of themselves drinking Limoncello (a strong lemon liqueur) in Piazza San Pietro.

I do know a number of serious Catholics – those who truly believe and practice Christianity, e.g., doing volunteer work. Interestingly, none of them went to Rome, and all were nonplussed by the outpouring of whatever this was, and disconcerted by the yells of “Santo subito!” (“Make him a saint immediately!”) As far as I know, it’s not in the church canons to saint somebody just because he was popular.

Rome rose magnificently to the occasion, managing to keep things in order and take care of the crush of people. Every cellphone in Italy received messages from the Protezione Civile (“Civil Protection” – the government emergency-response organization). The first read: “If you go to Rome to pay homage to the Pope, use mass transit and be prepared for organized but very long lines. Hot by day and cool at night. For information, listen to Isoradio [public information radio, mostly used for traffic warnings] 103.3.”

The second message said: “Due to enormous turnout, from Wednesday at 10 pm access is closed to the lines to salute the Pope. Friday for the funeral traffic will be stopped in Rome. The area of San Pietro is full. Large screens will be in the piazzas and at Torvergata” (an area outside Rome where the final rush of pilgrims was told to stop when the city couldn’t take any more).

My friend Alice Twain then sent her own message: “Protezione Civile: Before leaving for Rome, remember to turn off the gas, close the shutters, and water the plants.”


photo above: April 1, 2005 – the Papal Deathwatch. A TV transmission truck (belonging to RAI, Italian state television) parked outside the headquarters of Avvenire, Italy’s Catholic daily newspaper. The vultures are circling…

Pope-O-Vision

As popes go, John Paul II is certainly one of the best there’s ever been: he is truly upright and deeply religious, and he has tried to use his position to be a force for good in the world. I respect that, even though I’m not Catholic and don’t agree with everything he says. But Read More…

As popes go, John Paul II is certainly one of the best there’s ever been: he is truly upright and deeply religious, and he has tried to use his position to be a force for good in the world. I respect that, even though I’m not Catholic and don’t agree with everything he says.

But in Italy (as I often joke) we don’t have television, we have Pope-o-vision. Every day the news wires and TV report what the Pope is doing, or what he has to say about the global crisis or disaster of the day. But what he says is usually so predictable! Of course he’s going to pray for peace between the warring factions, for international understanding, for aid to the afflicted, etc. While kind and worthy, this is hardly news: he’s the Pope – what else would we expect him to say?

Occasionally he does come out with something surprising. For example: In Italy, many couples split up without officially filing for divorce (because it’s a huge, expensive hassle), and often the ex-partners end up living and even having children with someone new. The Pope declared that it was all right for these de facto new couples to take communion – as long as they weren’t actually having sex.

The Italian media’s obsession with the Pope is baffling, because so few Italians today are devoutly practicing Catholics. Evidence: The vast majority of Italians are nominally Catholic, and the Church does not believe in “unnatural” forms of birth control, yet Italy has one of the world’s lowest birthrates. (Followed closely by that other very Catholic country, Spain.)

Italy’s shift to secularity is recent. Divorce became legal only in 1970, in a parliamentary decision which the Vatican attempted to overturn by a national referendum in 1974. To the shock of the Church, 60% of the Italian people voted in favor of keeping divorce legal. Similarly, and even more strikingly, a 1978 law making abortion legal was brought to referendum in 1981, and again the Church and its political friends failed: the right to abortion was sustained by 68% of Italians. Since then, abortion has never been a serious political issue in Italy.

Returning to my original topic: My irreverence towards the Church (and indeed all religious institutions) is partly my own, but I’ve also absorbed it from the Italians, many of whom, in spite of their media’s obsessions, don’t take Catholicism as an institution very seriously. They’ve had a ringside seat on the Vatican’s activities for most of 2000 years, and they know how little the Church-with-a-capital-C has had to do with religion for much of that time.