We don’t normally talk about the Pope in the pub. Soccer, rugby, horses, hurling –yes. But the Pope – no. Last week, however, was an exception. Last week we had a new Pope. It was Wednesday night, the night the Pope was elected, so we were ‘full of it’ so to speak even though we couldn’t speak his name or rather we didn’t know how to pronounce it.
Firstly we couldn’t decide whether he was Cardinal Pergoglio or Bergoglio; when we established that it was Bergoglio we couldn’t decide on how to pronounce it – was it BER-GOG-LIO or was it BER-GOLIO with a silent G? And our little ‘conclave’ in the pub was far from silent as we pontificated on the pronunciation of the new Pope’s name. We even pontificated on papal matters that we knew little or nothing about – except perhaps for the man whom I shall refer to as ‘The Monsignor’ because of his knowledge of the papacy which was indeed superior to ours but then that wouldn’t have been hard.
It was ‘The Monsignor’ who teased and tormented us all night with questions about the papacy. “Who was the last pope?” he asked. “Benedict XV1”, our ‘conclave’ answered confidently. “Good, very good”, said ‘The Monsignor, “Now what was his real name?”. “Ratzinger”, we shot back like proud little five year olds. “But what was his first name?” And for the first time our ‘conclave’ fell silent. Very silent. We were stumped. Until someone recalled; “Joseph”. ‘The Monsignor’ gave a benign smile and would, I feel sure, have given that person a papal blessing or at least a lollipop or a star if he’d had a lollipop or star.
And now ‘The Monsignor’ was really getting into his stride: “Who did Benedict come after? And what was his name?” Naming the Popes was relatively easy but coming up with their real names was challenging. And this went on all night going right back to Pope Pius X11 which was about as far back as any of us could go and which was too
far back as far as I was concerned. The Champions League and Cheltenham didn’t get
a look in thanks to Pope Francis.
And because the Pope had taken the name Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, founder of the Franciscans, ‘The Monsignor’ wanted to know what was the difference between The Franciscans and The Capuchins, who we have here in the Friary. And of course we didn’t know. Which is when ‘The ‘Monsignor’ slipped out for a smoke (more white smoke) while we nattered on about nothing in particular.
And then from the far end of the bar a voice pipes up: “Is there any news on the papal election?” And for the second time our ‘conclave’ falls silent. With disbelief. And we genuinely wonder where this person has been for the last five hours. “Yes” we reply and then, in total unison, chorus out: “BER-GOG-LIO – with a silent G”.
Later we got to thinking about the Pope’s name Francis and start listing all the Francis’s we knew, starting with the Francis in front of us, Frank the barman who, as ‘The Monsignor’ pointed out was not unlike Pope Francis – Frank our barman is also humble, doesn’t have a chauffeur and travels, not by bus, but by bike. Frank rattled off several Francis’s: Francis Albert Sinatra, Frank Zappa, Frank Stapleton, Frank James (brother of Jesse), Frank Bruno, Frank Lampard, Frankie Dettori andnow the entire ‘conclave’ was in on the act and the Franks were coming fast and furious: Francis Bacon, Frank Muir, General Franco, Franco Zeffirelli, Francis Ford Coppola, Frank Ifield, Franc, the wedding organiser, Frank Lloyd Wright, Frankie Vaughan, Frank Aiken, Frank Kelly, Frank McCourt, Francis Ledwidge and, of course, Frankie Byrne aka ‘Dear Frankie’. Then someone threw in ‘Frankie goes to Hollywood’ and Frank-en-stein! And we knew we were scraping the barrel then.
Which is when we focused on all the Kilkenny Francis’s or Franks: Frank Cummins, Frank Kavanagh, Frank McKenna, Frank Cody, Frank Moran and Frank Wall, God be good to them, Frankie Mahoney, Frank Duggan, FrankO’Brien and Frank Morrissey, patron of this very pub. We were still working on that list when Francis, the Boss, as opposed to Francis the Pope, drew our attention to the late hour – to be Frank he’d had enough of our pontificating for one night.
Finally, as we drained our glasses, the general consensus of the ‘conclave’ in the pub was that Pope Francis was in Cheltenham terminology, ‘a sure winner’.
P.S. So, what is the difference between the Franciscans and the Capuchins because ‘The Monsignor’ didn’t actually know, thereby committing a cardinal pub sin - asking a question to which he didn’t know the answer. We’re seriously thinking of excommunicating him!