Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Airships and the Antarctic

I have a great veneration for the office and person of the Pope, "our sweet Christ on earth" as St Catherine of Siena put it.

But I think he needs to get around to certain things; here are two humble suggestions.

1.  It is obvious to all men that the happiest form of flight was that conducted in the great German airships of the period prior to the last War; indeed, as all men know, it was only the refusal of America to supply helium that led to the Hindenburg suffering its fiery demise as a result of being perforce filled with hydrogen.  

Now, His Holiness really needs to set a good example to the world by desisting from travelling by heavier-than-air transport, which is unnatural as the Philosopher teaches, and incidentally reducing the Vatican carbon footprint by doing so.  How?  Well, if the Lateran Treaty allows for a Papal navy, it certainly can be read to permit a Vatican airship service - for, as I recall, the Imperial Zeppelin fleet was an arm of the navy of the Second Reich.  

Traditional German expertise in this field could be conjoined to modern ecological awareness, resulting in civilized travel for not just the Vicar of Christ but also his faithful followers: and, unlike on an aëroplane, Mass could be safely celebrated aboard an airship.  What a marvel it would be to see great vessels of the air in yellow and white, how uplifting to the faithful, what a rebuke to unbelievers, to behold them dispensing holy cards as they float by, directed by priestly captains of the sky...

2.  While I am meditating on desiderata, the unruly state of the Church in Antarctica catches my attention again.  It really is intolerable disorder to find a whole continent dotted with permanent bases, good numbers of which have Catholic or at least ecumenical chapels, and yet no unified episcopal oversight.  Benedict XVI must regard this as contrary to that immemorial proverb, Alles in Ordnung

For instance, a New Zealand diocese (Christchurch, I believe) supplies a Catholic chaplain in summer to the N.Z. base on Ross Island; while presumably the Chilean and Argentinian chaplains sent to their respective national bases on the Antarctic Peninsula come from various separate dioceses.  Ditto for whoever visits the chapel of Notre-Dame des Ventes on the subantarctic French territory of Kerguelen.  What a mess ecclesiastically speaking!  

Now, two problems arise: how to centrally administer this congeries of chaplaincies, all scattered around the south polar region, and who to appoint as Archbishop of Antarctica?  Well, the above-mentioned Vatican Airship Service (Latin title, anyone?) would take care of the first concern (for certainly the North Pole has been crossed by airship), and as for the second, one needs a prelate versed in at least Spanish and English - someone from Opus Dei would be ideal, especially as such a cleric could very well have a doctorate in physics or engineering so as to be an acceptably scientific-minded interlocutor, humanly speaking, to the boffins of whose souls he would have the cure.

I love giving free advice.

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