On the drive into work, I had the misfortune of listening to Cokie Roberts getting a little excited about the pageantry of the Papal resignation. Now, she’s a special case when it comes to power worship, but I think the American fascination about the Pope is akin to our fascination with royalty.
I recall the weeping and rending of garments in the American public when Princess Diana died. I allowed as how her death was untimely and sad, but not uncommonly so and questioned what all the fuss was about. The couple of responses I got were along the lines of “she was such a great humanitarian and did a lot of good work.” Maybe so, but not so long after, Mother Teresa died without anything near the attention. So, clearly, the humanitarian undertakings had little to do with the Princess Diana worship. It was her status as royalty that prompted the attention.
I don’t know why Americans have that tendency — maybe because we have no formal royalty of our own. But, in any event, I think that’s what’s going on with Pope Benedict; at least in the U.S. I doubt any but a passing small percentage of the population could describe with any particularity what acts he’s taken that have had a positive influence on the world. He’s interesting because he’s royalty of sorts.