Pope Considers Retirement After Hall of Fame Career
ROME, Italy (SP) — Having just completed his 25th season at the Vatican, Pope John Paul II, 83, will spend the off-season in Monte Carlo (where he maintains his official residence, for tax reasons) deciding whether he's ready to retire.
Whether or not the Pope chooses to hang up his miter this year, most observers are in agreement that he's a shoo-in for the Papal Hall of Fame in Bethlehem. Less certain is whether he'll be inducted in his first year of eligibility, which would require his name to appear on three-quarters of all ballots cast by the College of Cardinals.
"When you look at the incredible numbers he put up during his career - papal bulls issued, papal missions undertaken, and heretics excommunicated - there's no doubt in my mind that he deserves to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer," said Boston's Cardinal Richard Law.
In his illustrious career, Pope John Paul II has won an unprecedented six M.V.P. awards (Most Valuable Pontiff), and recently extended his own record by canonizing his 473rd saint. "Canonizing 400 saints is one of those magic numbers that practically guarantees you a spot in the Hall of Fame, kind of like getting 300 wins or 500 home runs in baseball," said Law.
Others, such as papal scholar Adam Clayton, think that it's unfair to compare Popes from different eras. "Consider, for example, that in Pope Pious VI's days, excommunicating heretics was an everyday occurrence, whereas papal bulls were very seldom issued," he said. "That's why Pious VI's papacy is referred to as the 'dead bull era'."
Clayton believes that the true measure of the Pope's greatness is in his longevity: "He never dominated the opposition - for example, abortion rights activists - but like Hank Aaron and Pete Rose, he did his job with remarkable consistency for over a quarter century. He is, after all, the fourth longest-serving Pope is history."
Sources within the Vatican have indicated that when the Pope does retire, his number will also be retired. In other words, no future Pope will have the roman numeral II as part of their name. "We think it'll be a fitting tribute to have the Pope's number hanging from the rafters of the Sistine Chapel when he calls it a career," said a senior Vatican official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
If he does retire, there's speculation that the Pope might make a return to the stage. Before he decided to devote his life to Catholicism, the Pope was in fact a professional actor. It was recently reported that the Pope's agent has received an offer for him to play the lead in a Broadway revival of the Arthur Miller classic, 'Death of a Pontiff'.
There are also numerous business opportunities that will exist for the Pope upon his retirement. He already holds the record for the largest advance received from a publisher for a work of non-fiction, that being the $8 million (U.S.) he was paid to write his memoirs. Apparently, there is also a great deal of interest in marketing a host of papal novelty items bearing his likeness, including Pope Soap on a Rope and a miniature Popemobile with bullet-proof glass.
Despite rampant speculation regarding his retirement, the Pope remains a popular pick in Catholic League rotisserie pools. "I traded four priests, two cardinals and the Archbishop of Canterbury to acquire his rights," said avid Catholic poolie Ruby Friedman. "It was a steep price to pay, but I think the Pope is worth it. He provides such consistency from a position that usually doesn't generate much offensive production."
However, Patrick Huterer, the Webmaster of www.officepools.com, has seen a discernable decline in the Pope's popularity in Catholic League pools that his site administers. "Five years ago, he would have been the first player drafted in any Catholic League pool, without a doubt," said Huterer. "However, his deteriorating health has now made him a much riskier pick. On the other hand, he's currently the third most popular choice in our celebrity death pool, just behind Bob Hope and Ronald Reagan."