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  • prequel

    "Top blog/Renato Obeid's World/Today's pick: This rambling weblog is worth reading not so much for its satirical posts but more for its insight into the minutiae of life in Lebanon, including the etiquette of road accidents and how to hire a taxi.” -Jane Perrone, The Guardian

    Wednesday, April 06, 2005  
    Europe’s last absolute monarch, Prince Rainier III of Monaco, passes away – six days after Time Magazine (Pacific Edition) ran an untimely obituary of the then ailing eighty-one year old ruler.
    CNN also did their share of gun jumping, prematurely reporting Pope John Paul II's death on Friday evening, later retracted - the report that is, not the death that eventually occurred on Saturday evening leaving the world much the poorer.
    The graphic switched from “Health of the Pope” to “Death of the Pope” and back again within half an hour after erroneous Italian news reports.

    Would-be Papal assasin Mehmet Ali Agca, serving time in a Turkish prison (not, as it would appear, working at CNN) has had his request to attend the Pope's funeral on Friday turned down.

    That so many people around the world had actual encounters with Pope Jean Paul II is testimony to the outreach and effort of this remarkable man – e.g. I was lucky enough to of had two encounters on two continents and they both occurred practically outside my front door and almost by accident.
    The Pope’s visit to Lebanon in 1997 was centered on Harisa – he stayed at the Apostolic Nunciature some two kilometers up the road from where I live and celebrated a mass at the abutting Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite cathedral.
    I walked up to attend the mass – the mountain and other areas visited were closed to traffic during most of the visit.
    In the run up to the visit, standing on my balcony was like viewing a Soviet-era May Day parade from a reviewing stand as countless tanks and other military vehicles rumbled up the mountain – the country’s entire army and police force were deployed and nowhere more so than up here.
    En route to and from Harisa, his motorcade passed our buildings four times and we all stood outside to greet him and receive his blessing, alongside a huge billboard sized Vatican flag and a smaller Polish one made up entirely of flowers that we had commissioned – the centerpiece of days long preparations which also included draping the buildings in giant Lebanese and Vatican flags and putting up banners and posters welcoming the Pope (something that was replicated across the country).
    During these preparations there was a festive atmosphere around the building as neighbors gathered around socializing, smoking water pipes and telling the professionals what to do (a florist embroidered the flags with fresh flowers and soldiers commandeered by an army General who lives in the buildings put up the bunting, banners and posters).
    On a visit to Australia in 1986, His Holiness visited my old primary school, Saint Leo the Great, in Altona North in suburban Melbourne.
    My friend Noel and I, who were fifteen at the time, walked the couple of blocks to the school and waited outside the perimeter with thousands of other people (being ex-students we weren’t in the inner sanctum).
    We didn’t get much of a glimpse of him amongst the masses, so, a while after he’d entered the school; we gave up and decided to walk over to the shops a couple of blocks away in the other direction.
    About to cross an empty street to get to the shops (everyone else was at the school and the whole area had been shutoff to traffic at dawn), who should happen to cross our paths but Pope Jean Paul II, in the Popemobile (no entourage) en route back from the school to a nearby football field where he was to catch a helicopter back into the city.
    The very definition of serendipity.
    We waved and cheered and received in return a wave and a blessing all to ourselves.Beavis and Butthead on their way to the shops to get some nachos (having decided that standing around school sucks) had just had a chance serendipitous encounter with the Pope.

    4:09 pm

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