Pope quits! Lightning hits! Where are Captain Kirk and Dirty Harry?
Pope Benedict stunned the Roman Catholic Church last week when he announced he would stand down, the first pope to do so in 700 years, saying he no longer had the mental and physical strength to carry on.
Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation seemed to have roiled the heavens. Lightning struck St Peter’s Basilica, one of the holiest Catholic sites, on the same day that Pope Benedict announced he would be stepping down.
Lightning gashing the sky and illuminating St. Peter’s was not the only light in the sky in that week the Pope surprised the world.
Friday, a meteor ripped through the sky over Russia at 33,000 mph. Slowed suddenly by Earth’s atmosphere, the big rock accumulated energy until it exploded over the city of Chelyabinsk, injuring more than 1,000 people, damaging buildings and blowing out windows.
Ivan Markovitch, estimated by NASA scientists to be 127 years old, blamed the explosion on “American war mongers.”
The same NASA scientists said the meteor was round, blacker than coal and about 1,300 feet wide.
This, I believe, is roughly the size of Noah’s Ark. I can’t be certain.
The Ark was built of gopher wood and measured in cubits. A cubit is the distance from a Babylonian’s elbow to his finger tips. The Syrian cubit was a shade longer, but Syrians were more robust.
Great lights in the sky have long been considered omens. The best remembered light-in-the-sky was, of course, the star of Bethlehem, the beacon that led the Three Wiseman to the newborn Christ. The story has some rough edges but remains a Christian favorite.
The death of Julius Caesar was marked by a comet, according to his Greek biographer, Plutarch. The object that lighted the nighttime sky shone brightly for seven nights after Caesar’s murder.
While the meteor disturbed the sleep of Russian peasants, thousands of professional and amateur scientists aimed telescopes skyward toward a spot where astronomers and their computers predicted the arrival of an asteroid that would pass within 17,000 miles of Earth – the closest near miss ever recorded.
The asteroid on its way is not expected to threaten Earth, but past asteroid strikes have changed the planet’s history. A large body of rock struck Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula 65 million years ago. Named the Chicxulub Asteroid, it left a crater 60 kilometers wide and 10 kilometers deep. The explosion and its after effects killed 50 percent of the planet’s species, including the dinosaurs. Many not eliminated by the blast died soon after as acid rain fell and dust blotted out the sun.
Extinction of T-Rex and other the great beasts that ruled the earth surrendered the planet to a motley collection of tiny insect eaters and rodents that gave rise to the age of mammals. Mouse-like critters that scampered through the leaf litter evolved into bison to cover the plains, giraffes, whales, elephants, lions, tigers and those naked apes that would build the pyramids, the Great Wall of China and 100,000 McDonald’s outlets.
P.S. Pope Benedict’s escape from the Vatican was not a one-of-a-kind event.
The Catholic Church once had three popes and two capitals. Primates kept coming and going until not even the cardinals could keep track.
The drama began with a single pope. He died. The cardinals elected a replacement. Roman citizens revolted. The pope is a great stimulator of business, a tourist attraction and source of revenue.
The non-Roman pope took his servants, advisers and administrators and vamoosed to Avignon, a city given to the papacy by a rich Catholic lord hoping to guarantee a swift entry into paradise. The dead lord was in Heaven 36 minutes before the Devil knew he was dead.
Cardinals left behind told the posse fleeing Rome to not let the door hit them in the rump. The cardinals elected a second pope to replace the one that had escaped.
For many years the Avignon faction fought the Roman clique. Once when negotiators for the two sides were near an agreement to reunite the schism’s two sides, the Avignon gang offered the Throne of Peter to a cardinal who refused it, fearing that he might not be able to surrender the office if he took it.
An elderly cardinal from Spain said, “For me, it would be as easy as taking off a hat.” He accepted the papacy but never took off the hat.
Eventually he moved to Spain, where he was pope of a single diocese. In time the Spanish pope joined one of the Roman popes in purgatory.
The holy mother church was united. Dominus Vobiscum.