Mister Pope

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a story of a Pope, and how he wants to change the Catholic Church so it is a modern Church for everyone. Is the Church ready for this? Are Catholics ready for a change? Does God want the Church to change?

Submitted: July 25, 2019

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Submitted: July 25, 2019

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A. His Childhood

"The only time I could really be considered a saint is when I was a child. God was my friend and my innocence kept me away from sin" – Pope Stephen X

It is hard to believe that the Church never had an Irish Pope until now. The Catholic Religion is a vital part of the Irish heritage. It is not just something people do every Sunday, it is part of an Irish person's personality. The Irish people have fought for the right to be Catholic and they suffered for it. The Church had helped society by giving the people moral standards, as well as helping with education and health and of course the poor.

The Church had a lot of influence. Some people say that it had more power than politicians. People flocked to Churches every Sunday and listened to every word the priest had to say. The Priest was a respected celebrity in every town and was more important than the town mayor!

This was the world that an Irish boy was born in. He was baptized as Andrew Sullivan, but we all know him as Pope Stephen X.

Who would guess that an Irish boy would one day become the Pope? He was born in an ordinary family, where his mom worked at home and his dad worked with construction. The family was devout Catholics. They went to Church where they sat in the same pew every Sunday. They prayed the Rosary and the Angeles. They went to confessions. In fact, the only strange thing about them is that they did not own a Bible! But all in all, they had a good reputation for being a good Catholic family.

Religion was not just something that Andrew was interested in. It was a vital part of his life. This could be seen in his relationship with God. In other words, God was not a concept or something abstract to Andrew, God was his best friend. From early on Andrew was pious and never hid the fact that his friendship with God was the most important part of his life.

Despite he was so pious and religious, Andrew led a normal life. He had friends at school and they did not question his faith. I fact, many of them had a similar faith and being a good Catholic was nothing to be ashamed about. Andrew done well at school and in his free time, he was a scout.

This did not mean that Andrew was without sin. He often had a fight with his mother, especially as a teenager. He even was caught stealing from a store once! On top of all this, his parents did not like that he was a huge Madonna fan. This was a pop-star that often was involved in controversy and challenged the Catholic Church.

There was no sign that this boy would one day be the Pope!

When Andrew was old enough to read books, he read books about saints. He loved reading about Saint Bernadette and Thérèse of Lisieux. These books strengthened his Catholic Faith. Andrew had an ambition that he wanted to be a saint. This worried his parents, that worried that Religion was being like a drug for him. They were proud of him that he had faith, but was scared at his ambition of being a saint.

During one of their fights, Andrews mother told him that he is the last one that will be a saint. She reminded him that Saints did not give cheek or argue with their parents, and did not complain when it was time to do chores. She also noticed that he had one girlfriend after another girlfriend. This is not something that a saint would do.

I spoke with Father Sheehan, who was the parish priest at the time and remembered Andrew, "There was nothing special about him. He was like any other boy in the parish. I knew that he was a good Catholic. He was never an altar boy. He told me that he was not fit to be one as he sinned a lot. However, I did notice that he was in the scouts."

Father Sheehan smiled and told me that he remembered that Andrew was adored by the girls. At school dances, he would dance with many girls. He also remembered that he told the confirmation class that his ambition was to be a saint. "This was not a bad ambition," he said, "After all that is the major reasons we have saints, so we can try and imitate their lives."

One major figure in Andrews childhood was his grandmother. She would take him to the Church and light candles, where after they would sit in silence and pray. She told her friends proudly that Andrew always wanted to pray. It was there that he felt closest to God. She also told friends that he asked a lot of questions, like why were there not women priests? Why were there protestants? In fact, these questions were the same he asked when he became the Pope.

B. Becoming a Priest

When I studied to be a priest, there were so many temptations. The fact is that I was tempted every day by the devil and every day the devil won!" - Pope Stephen X

Andrew did join the priest seminary as soon as he left school. In a way, it was no surprise for anyone. It was an unwritten rule that at least from one each family joined the clergy as a nun, priest, monk or brother. So when people looked at Andrew and his brothers, it was assumed that he most likely would have a vocational call.

From the start, Andrew separated himself from the other students. One example was after a week of studies, the students would watch a film and eat some junk food. Andrew did not participate. He would sit in a dark prayer room in deep prayer. The others admired Andrew and his ability to pray.

One of the students he studied with told me, "Andrew was special and we all knew it. His spirituality was unique. He had a special friendship with the Lord, and he did not see praying and meditation as some religious duties. It was just something that he did. The strange thing is he was a living saint, but at times he could shock us and do something unexpected."

There is a story that Andrew and his group decided to do a dance routine at a charity that was held with other students from different religious orders. While the others sang religious songs and were quite sweet, Andrew came out dressed in Madonna and lip-synched to "Like a Virgin"

One woman who was there, and now is a nun told me, "This was totally the wrong time and the wrong place and we all sat in shock! I will admit that Andrew was a good dancer, but we were all looking at his provocative performance and thinking what was he trying to tell us! To this day, I do not know, maybe he just wanted to shock us."

This was not the only incident. There is a story where the priests were having a party to celebrate something. The students were invited. They sat in a corner sipping coke and lemonade. As the night went on, Andrew told one of the others to get him some whiskey. When the fellow student came with a small glass, Andrew instructed him to get the bottle as he wanted to know what it to get drunk. At the end of the evening, he was drunk and in tears telling the pupils how unworthy he was.

It often has been asked how Andrew had so many different sides. He was known for being very spiritual and yet at other times, known to do some shocking things. The question many people asked was why he did things that were not expected.

One explanation could be that Andrew was protected most of his life. The first time he drank alcohol was when he studied to be a priest. Andrew was shocked when he saw how some priests lived. Some were alcoholics. Some ate too much. He once told a friend that many priests were lonely. The worse thing he noticed is that prayers often became a routine and duty for priests. God was not an important part of their lives. This must have shocked a young man, who had a great relationship with God. When I interviewed the men he studied with, a few of them told me that his worse fear is that God will be something he possibly believes in, and not a friend.

The superiors were also concerned if Andrew could be a priest. The director of students told the press at one stage, "I was unsure if Andrew could be a priest. He had a deep faith and yet he could be a rebel. I thought that his rebel side was positive, as it showed that he was human and could make mistakes! Still, Andrew always spoke with a quiet voice and in many ways he was submissive. It just seemed like that he was missing that element that he needed to be a leader of people."

Andrew also asked many questions. He wanted to know why the Church was against abortion and divorce. He wanted to know why homosexuality was a crime. Some other priests were afraid when he defended homosexuality. Some joked that he could actually be in the closet. At any case, his questioning proved to be a challenge for many students and priests, that they could not or did not want to answer.

At one stage, Andrew was asked to consider if the priesthood was for him. He went on a retreat for 14 days. During these days, he fasted and sat out by a lake that had wildflowers. Even if it was raining, he would be sitting there. Some of the monks came and begged him to eat something, but he was in a world of his own.

Andrew came back after the retreat and told the student director that he knew that he was being called to the priesthood. Andrew admitted that he was not the perfect priest, but he wanted to be the hand of God and wanted to learn.

A few years later, Andrew was ordained as a priest.

C. Andrews time as a priest

" When I started as a priest, I wanted to change the world. Soon I found out that I could not do this, but I could be a humble servant" - Pope Stephen X

Father Andrew started as the parish priest in a small Irish town. There were only 1500 people living in the town, but this was his new home!

The town needed healing, as it has been through a crisis because the former priest was accused of molesting several boys. When Father Andrew came to the town, he noticed a town that lost its spirit and hope. For centuries, this town was isolated and the people lived without much attention from other towns. Generations of families lived in the town and they considered themselves the best town in the country.

This was until a few years ago when a boy accused the parish priest of molesting him. The people of town obviously heard that there allegations in USA and Dublin. They were not ready for a local boy saying that he was a victim. Things became worse when other boys came forward and said had the same allegations. People looked towards the Bishop to make things right again. The Bishop could not ease the suffering in the town. In fact, the priest was never punished. He was moved to another parish.

Father Andrew came to a town that was mad at the Church and thought the Catholic church was corrupt. He could see the people were mad and hurt and the special bond between them and the Church was destroyed. They no longer trusted any priest.

So Father Andrew had to start at the bottom and slowly gain trust in the people. He was not surprised when there were no altar-boys. In fact, he understood it. A parishioner told me that Father Andrew was humble. He did not talk about the previous priest. He did say that everyone had to answer for their sins, even priests. Father Andrew also said the worse sin is when someone hurts another person.

Father Andrew worked hard at the normal priest duties. He said a mass every day and held several on Sundays. He did baptisms, weddings, and funerals. He visited the old peoples home as well as the school. At the start, it was as if people did not want him there. Slowly the new ordained regained the people's trust and shown that most priests were not bad.

There is one touching story about an old woman Father Andrew visited at the retirement home. She was dying and confided in him that she did not want to die alone. Father Andrew sat by her bed and stayed there for 4 days. The nurses said he should go home and get some rest, but they were told that no one deserved to die alone. The dying woman had someone she could talk with and pray with.

Father Andrew confided in a friend that it was one of the hardest things that he has done. "We had great discussions and we prayed, but as the days went, she only had the energy to grunt. At the end, her breathing was so loud and irregular. I wanted to help her, but felt so useless"

D. Being elected as the Pope

"It is impossible to find the holy spirit or God's will when a pope is being selected" - Pope Stephen X

Father Andrew quickly rose up the catholic hierarchy. He was soon a cardinal working in the Vatican. His job was to work with public relations, which was surprising why he even worked there. As one Vatican insider told me, Cardinal Andrew was hard working and very pious. At the same time, Cardinal Andrew was not diplomatic and at times found it difficult defending the Church.

Things really changed when the Pope died. The church had many popes in a short period, and the recent popes really did not make a difference. They were more like caretakers of the Church. Despite this, the dead pope was a popular one. People loved his humility and his urge to make things better. He was a simple Pope and shunned the nearly Royal customs that the Vatican had.

Now he was dead, and the Cardinals had to pick a new Pope. All the Cardinals under 80 were locked in a room, where they started their conclave. This is the election process to the pope. Until the Pope was elected, the cardinals were cut off from the rest of the world.

Everyone expected the election to be quick, as Cardinal Lorenzo was expected to get the majority of votes. He failed to do this, and people were wondering how Cardinal Andrew got a few votes.

Between the discussion and votes, Cardinal Andrew would be found praying and asking God for guidance. Other Cardinals noticed while there were campaigning in corners, Cardinal Andrew refused to be political. Cardinal told one of the Cardinals that it was times like electing a pope, that prayer and help from the Holy Spirit were needed.

Many of the other cardinals depended on politics. There is a rumor that Lorenzo said that he would be willing to accept Andrew as he "would be a Pope that we could control."

So Cardinal Andrew must have been shocked when he suddenly had the majority of votes, and thus was the new Pope.

"Why me" was the response many heard him say as well as asking God to be at his side.

E. The World at your feet

"When they elected me the Pope, the first thing I thought was that God is punishing me. I am sure that there were so many others that could do the job. So what did God want from me?" - Pope Stephen X

Cardinal Andrew was very silent when the votes were counted up. When he was asked if he accepted the position as Pope, he was silent. Many cardinals were thinking he would say no. The people that knew Andrew were certain that he was in prayer, asking God what he should do. After some time went, he nodded and said if it was God's will.

Then he was asked what name he would have a Pope. This is when we first heard his name would be Pope Stephen X. It was at this time that the first Irish man became the Bishop of Rome, true Pope, and Head of the College of Bishops, acquiring full and supreme authority over the Universal Church.

Things went quickly for the new Pope. He was led into a small room and helped with the new clothes that a Pope wears. Gone was the red colors of a Cardinal and he now had the white colors of the Pope. They read from the Bible as he was getting changed.

One could only guess what was going through Pope Stephens mind as he came back to the cardinals, and one by one, they kissed his ring promising obedience and loyalty.

One could also guess what was going through Cardinal Lorenzo's mind. He obviously thought the new Pope would so submissive, that Lorenzo would have the real power. So the question was, what was going through his mind. Was it a lie when he promised obedience and loyalty?

After that, Pope Stephen prayed in silence. While he was praying, Cardinal Lorenzo announced to the whole world who the new pope was. 

People waited a long time for the first glimpse of the pope. He was in the chapel praying and most likely asking God why he was chosen? Several times, someone politely interrupted him and said that the people were waiting. The new Pope was deep in prayer and they could simply not get his attention.

Many remember watching TV, as time went on and the Pope did not appear. People were getting impatient and wondering was there a problem. Cardinal Lorenzo ever appeared and told the people there would be a delay as the Pope was praying. He suggested that the people did the same as they waited. This was never seen before,

Pope Stephen finally came out. He was met by his parents. His mom was in tears and telling him how proud they were. The Pope said that he wished his grandmother was alive. Observers say that he looked in his mother's eyes and said, "Today is a day of celebration. The slow martyrdom of me starts tomorrow."

The crowd cheered as the new Pope appeared. He waved to them and blessed them all. He must have known that many people were celebrating, but also wondering what this new Pope would mean for the Church. Everyone was asking who this new pope was.

Pope Stephen lifted his hands and told the people, "Today we celebrate that there is a new Pope. I ask you to pray for me and pray for the Church. It is no secret that our Church is in trouble. Throughout history, we have not done God's will. We have hurt people and taught the wrong things. This must stop now. We need to make the Catholic Church the true family of God.

I will do what I can, but the most important part is what you do at home. The Catholic faith starts at home. The gift you can give your children is the friendship of God. Let us use this opportunity to revive the Catholic Church and the faith that each family has. Let us welcome God back in each of our families. He wishes to be a friend. Now is the time for Revival and a stronger friendship with God. A family that prays together stays together."

Sources say that the next day, the new Pope was disappointed. He was reading the newspapers and nothing was said about his hope that families would learn how to have God as a friend and strengthen their faith. The news was mostly about the fact that he was unknown and from Ireland. The idea that the press did not know the new Pope led them to write long articles on the state of the Church and its need for a strong Pope.

Cardinal Lorenzo was Pope Stephens advisor and the Vatican secretary of the state. He wasted no time telling the Pope of his new routine. There was something new every hour and it was long working hours. Lorenzo was sure that he could control the new pope, so must have got a shock when Pope Stephen instructed that 6 hours a day would be taken out of the schedule for his private time.

"As a Pope, it is nearly as if you are no longer a private person. There are so many demands." Cardinal Lorenzo explained.

" I need my private time with God. If a Pope cannot dedicate his time for prayer, who can?"

Lorenzo did not expect this. He explained that he and the staff would do all they could to help the Pope with his work. There were so many decisions and it was impossible that the Pope could deal with them all. The Pope was also warned on reforms, saying that may Popes hoped to reform the Church and misunderstood the Church was timeless. It did not have to be politically correct.

Pope Stephen smiled and said what more does he need, He has cardinals and he has God.

An observer told me that he was going to pray in the chapel when He interrupted the Pope there. The new Pope was praying out loud, He was asking God what was expected of him and would God be at his side. The scene was quite dramatic. It shows the personality of the new Pope. He knew that he had a lot of responsibilities. It was like as if he knew that he would be making some unpopular decisions and some may even think that he was a bad Pope. This did not bother the new pope, as long as he had God at his side.

As for Cardinal Lorenzo, he thought things we going well during the first weeks of Pope Stephens papacy. Pope Stephen agreed with much of what was suggested and did not question anything.

This changed when the Pope had a visit from the Jewish leader. The meeting was private and lasted for 5 hours. There was a concern from the Popes advisors as time went on. This was supposed to be a short meeting where the two leaders could meet and get to know one another.

No one expected that when the two came out, the Jewish leader called it the most constructive and important meeting between the two Churches in a century.

Pope Stephen explained, "During World War II, The Catholic Church turned a blind eye on the Holocaust. Our Church was afraid of what Nazis could do to us, and in a way the Church supported Nazis, as we feared communism. This led to the Church telling its priests and monasteries not to hide Jews that needed refuge. So many bad things were done during these years that hurt the Jews. This includes the Catholic Church being silent where there was evidence of the Holocaust. This also includes the cover-up since. The Jews deserve an answer and they deserve an apology.

I have apologized to the Jews on behalf of the Catholic Church. We may have acted from fear or even political reasons. Fear is dangerous and the Catholic Church must stand up to any injustice in the world, We must learn from our mistakes in history. I have therefore ordered that all records concerning World War II be made public."

You could not hear a pin drop. Everyone was silent and in shock. Pope John Paul II apologized on March 2000 to the Jews for centuries of Christian anti-Antisemitism. This went one step further!

Cardinal Lorenzo was furious. When the Pope was back in his office, he had to listen to the Cardinal ask if this was wise for the Church and why was he not consulted. The Pope simply smiled and said he wanted the records opened within a week. While the cardinal was raging mad, the Pope also ordered him to announce a state visit to Brazil and Ireland.

Lorenzo had to speak with the other Cardinals. One of the other cardinals told me that this talk was about how they could keep Pope Stephen on a leash.

F. What is he doing?

"You are not weak if you admit to mistakes and learn from them. You are weak if you ignore your mistakes!" - Pope Stephen X

Pope Stephen made his fist impression by opening old wounds and apologizing. The was a group of cardinals that did not want change and only wanted power. They became wary about the new Pope and afraid of what may come. They saw any change as a sign that they had less power. So there was a lot of whispering at the Vatican, After the Jewish leader surprise, Cardinal Lorenzo noticed that the pope had several meetings with bishops and priests from all the world. The meetings were veiled with secrecy, and not even Lorenzo was allowed to attend these meetings. He did not like this.

A meeting was held shortly with the cardinals. The Pope sat on his throne listening to the cardinals talk about Vatican finances, the number of tourists and the problem with the old sewage system. The pope sighed and said, "The problem with the Church today is that the clergy has become administrators and politicians. This is from the priest to the cardinal. We lost the ability to be apostles of Christ. Here we are talking about tourists and finances, but we should be talking about how do we bring back God to the people? How do we be his apostles? I want each one of you to look into your soul and ask are you an administrator or an apostle. Pray to God for guidance."

This was a strong message for some cardinals and some like Cardinal Lorenzo took it as a personal insult. It was then that he told a friend of his that he made a mistake by supporting Pope Stephen.

The Pope went on a state visit to Ireland. Pope Francis was the last pope in Ireland, which was a trip because he did not say much about the abuse in the Catholic Church. The atmosphere was better this time, as Pope Stephen was the first Irish pope. It was estimated that 700.000 people attended an open-air mass where he spoke.

Cardinal Lorenzo was a bit worried. Will the Pope say something that he should not? He was confident that the Pope would not, as after all the Church made it known its policy over the last decades concerning the abuse. The Church was to be seen as trying to do something about it. Of course, very little happened. Several of Lorenzo's friends were accused of molesting boys, but they were never put on trial.

During the homily at mass, the Pope went silent. Then he addressed the people, "So many... So many children's lives have been ruined by men they should have trusted. So many Childhoods and their innocence have been stolen. This was done by priests who abused the trust children have. Some of these children have had the courage and stand up and tell the world about the hell they were forced to experience. These people were hurt once again by the Church that turned a blind eye to the abuse and protected their own priests."

Cardinal Lorenzo was biting his lip.

"This will change now." Pope Stephen continued, " On behalf of the Catholic Church, I would like to apologize to each person that was abused. I would like to apologize to each person that was hoping for justice. Apologies are not enough. The Church will have a zero policy of anyone that is accused of molesting a child. These priests will not be hidden. They will have to prove their innocence in a civil court of law. "

Cardinal Lorenzo had his head in his hands now.

Pope Stephen was not done, "It is time for justice and reconciliation. I have created an office in the Vatican in the last few weeks, with priests and bishops from across the world. This office will look at every case of abuse the Church had. All our documentation will be given to the police, and we will comply if that priest is to be prosecuted in a civil court. No case is too old for our office. It will be up to local prosecutors to decide if it goes to court."

There was huge applause and overnight, Pope Stephen was a hero in many peoples eyes. Internationally, his popularity went up. Even the Catholic haters were speechless. The only thing they could say was that it was too late to do anything.

One would think that Pope Stephen was proud of himself. There is a story from his brother that when he secretly visited his parents on the Irish trip that he took a nap. When he woke up, he was sweating. He explained to his family that he dreamt that his grandmothers spoke to him in the dream. She told him that he had so much to do, and for everything he did, he would get a new enemy. The last thing he remembered about the dream was that his enemies will do the Devils work."

The brother told me that he also overheard Cardinal Lorenzo speaking with the Pope. "You should have told me about this new office. Many will see it as a weakness of the Church. You should have told me! Have you anything big planned for Brazil? I should know now!"

"I am still praying for guidance about Brazil." The pope responded.

"Listen, you were elected as the Pope because I allowed it. In fact, as the Vatican secretary of the state, I have the real power. You were voted as the Pope because you were to listen to me. I would advise for you to start doing this, for the sake of Mother Church and yourself!"

The Pope smiled and whispered, "keep your enemies close." It's not certain if Lorenzo heard this. He only heard the pope say that it was time for prayer.

G. No stopping the Pope

" When something is not broken, it should not be changed. The question is when something is broken, and people do not see it broken, should it be fixed? Or should we let people believe that it is not broken?" - Pope Stephen X

Cardinal Lorenzo wanted the earth to swallow him during the trip to Brazil. He could not believe his ears. Did Pope actually say that birth control by using pills and condoms is not immoral? Nearly every pope until Pope Stephen promoted family planning but not by artificial methods. Now Catholics were told that the marriage consisted of a man, woman, and God. All three had a say in how many children there were. With one move, the Pope was giving the people a choice about life.

The media was shocked by this move. They were busy writing about the hundreds of priests that was now being prosecuted all over the world. This included the priest that molested boys at his first parish. Millions of Catholics were relieved that action was being taken, but others were afraid that the Church was opening wounds and vulnerable. While justice was good, some Catholics believed it was a defeated Church.

Now the media wrote about the new birth control. This upset the millions of conservative Catholics, that felt like the Church was trying to win cheap points and trying to look modern. This is despite a huge majority of Catholics admitted that they already used birth control.

A few months went and Cardinal Lorenzo finally calmed down. It has been said to me that despite that the new Pope and his actions annoyed the Cardinal, The Cardinal liked the Popes ability not to get mad at him, despite the Cardinal lost his temper a lot. Pope Stephen would treat him the same. In a way, the Cardinal had respect for the Pope... at least in the beginning.

Things would change to destroy whatever respect the Cardinal had.

The Pope called all the Bishops and Cardinals to a big meeting. The Clergy was a bit excited as to why this big meeting was called. As it turns out Pope Stephen did not disappoint them.

"Some of the apostles were married," he started, "and yet for some reason, the Church introduced celibacy. I have prayed and meditated about this for a while. What I have decided will be a major change in the Church. As I see it, it is getting the Church on the right path again after centuries of the opposite.

Bluntly putting it, the new change will allow for married priests. The exception will be religious orders, that can decide if their monks. Priests, brothers or nuns can be married.

I hear many of you moaning and wanting to scream in anger. I have one more change.

I will be allowing for female priests!

God created man equally. I have prayed and prayed and cannot see why women cannot be priests. In my view, there should be no discrimination in the Church. There are women priests in protestant Churches and they do a great job.

Priests are also human. We need relationships and we do best when we are part of a family unit.

This all takes effect from today. A notice has been sent to each bishop as well as the press.

Some of you will disagree. I suggest that you pray and meditate before you let your anger out"

Pope Stephen walked out while the men whispered to each other.

Cardinal Lorenzo did not meditate or pray. A former secretary to the pope told me that he stormed into the Popes office. He did not waste in telling the Pope that he was single-handedly destroying the Church. In fact, Lorenzo shouted that there was no more Catholic Church. He told the Pope that he should have debated this with the bishops and cardinals, or at least let him know that it was going to be decided.

It was not heard what the Popes answer was, but Lorenzo stormed out saying that he would not resign. The Church needed someone to save them from the Pope.

The news, of course, was the major news. Once again Pope Stephen made millions of Catholics say it is about time. However, there was a growing number that did not like the changes. Their voices could be very loud. Some went as far as to say that Pope Stephen was the devil himself and had the ambition to destroy the Church.

This was highlighted when the Pope was going through the streets in his Pope-mobile. A middle-aged American took out a gun and shot the Pope-mobile, which was bulletproof. The Pope was rushed to safety.

Cardinal Lorenzo used the opportunity to warn the Pope that his changes have made many Catholic mad.

H- The Catholic Split

" Some of the things I have done have annoyed many Catholics. I am beginning to lose faith in my ability as a Pope. Everything I have done has been Gods will. Should I just have done what the people wanted, and forget Gods will?" - Pope Stephen X

After the attempted shooting of the Pope, his staff as revealed to me that the Pope was shocked and confused. He told a secretary that he felt he was doing Gods will. So why did some Catholics try to kill him? One can argue that Pope Stephen did not think that these reforms were big. He was like most Catholics and thought that it was about time.

The Popes parents visited him. She revealed to me during an interview that it was Cardinal Lorenzo that persuaded them to visit. They were his last hope of getting the Pope under control. One would have helped that the shooting was an adequate warning, but Lorenzo wanted to make sure.

His mom and Dad warned him that he was going too far. They knew he was the Pope, but he could not go against dozens of other Popes and their decisions. He needed to debate things first with the cardinals and Bishops. His dad said that it was better if the majority of Cardinals and Bishops felt like they were part of a solution. They needed to feel like they were wanted.

One thing made the Pope think was his mother told him that Catholics no longer knew what the Catholic Church was like. An example being they were told all their life that birth control was a sin, and now they were told it wasn't. His mother explained that people needed time to get used to changes. It will take a long time to get used to married priests or female ones.

She finished by saying that many Catholics do not want these changes. Pope Stephen asked what if it was Gods will.

The next Cardinal meeting was very loud. The Cardinals let their frustrations out and concluded that they should at least been asked. They made it clear to the Pope that being a dictator did not work in the Catholic Church. Often a compromise would be met that would please most Catholics.

Again Pope Stephen asked what if God does not want compromise? He reminded them that the Pope was infallible and they promised their loyalty and obedience. The pope did inform them that there will be debates on many things, especially those that concern the faith.

Some Cardinals were relieved and understood that the Pope promised to work with them. Others like Cardinal Lorenzo no longer trusted the Pope.

While many were happy about the new Catholic Birth control measures, and many priests were getting married, it was clear that the Church was split. Pope Stephens critics were asking themselves what would be next? Will the Pope support abortion or would he support homosexuality? On the other side, some Catholics wanted more change.

I. Alone with God

"Historians will argue if I harmed the Church. They will not argue if I did God's will." - Pope Stephen X

The Vatican was in a panic. News from all over the world was that millions of Catholics were leaving the Church. For a while, there was no news from the Pope and he had not shown himself in public. There were rumors that there was a power struggle in the Church.

The media was full of news about priests and bishops being prosecuted and sentenced for many years because they abused a child. There was also news of priests that were getting married and the first women students that wanted to study as a priest.

But where was Pope Stephen?

The fact was that he secretly dressed up in his old priest clothes and visited the worlds largest Refugee camp. The Pope spent 3 weeks taking care of sick people, bringing food and blankets in the camp. He led both Muslims, Jews and Christians in prayers. He did not tell anyone he was here. In fact, Lorenzo thought the Pope locked himself in his own room.

It was first after 3 weeks, when someone recognized him as the Pope, that the media came. The Pope told the media to report the dire living conditions of the people, who were victims of war.

When he came back to the Vatican, Lorenzo was waiting. He warned the Pope that he had many enemies, so the Pope should not make any big announcements, that would destabilize the church more.

This did not happen. At the next Cardinal meeting, the Pope announced that a congress between Cardinals and Bishops would commence on the Organization of the Church. The Pope explained that the clergy needed to be apostles again, and not politicians or administrators. This council could change the way the Church was run. The Pope gave an example if people should have a say who the Pope was? Should there be cardinals and Bishops? Are all the ceremonial routines and the cleric attire needed? The Pope also asked about the Vatican finances? The Vatican's wealth at $10 billion to $15 billion. Of this wealth, Italian stockholdings alone run to $1.6 billion, 15% of the value of listed shares on the Italian market. The Vatican has big investments in banking, insurance, chemicals, steel, construction, real estate. The Pope asked was the Church a financial institution or what?

The most important discussion according to the Pope was how each Catholic family could strengthen their relationship with God.

The Cardinals were outraged. The Pope wanted to turn the church upside down. They did not discuss families and how people can be closer to God, they discussed how the Pope wanted to destroy the Vatican's finances.

As one Cardinal told me, "Did the Pope expect us to eat soup and bread?"

On the Eve of the Popes 3rd year, he rang to his mother. The Pope admitted that he was in bed for a few days because he did not feel well. His mom said they were harassed by many of their friends that did not like the changes. One asked her if the Pope was going to sell the Vatican. The Pope asked to speak with his father. His father did not want to speak.

That night a nun asked the Pope should she get a doctor? The Pope smiled and said she could in the morning. He just wanted to sleep

The next day they found Pope Stephen X dead in his bed.

I. Life after death

 

“When I was a child, I wanted to be a saint. Now I want to be a memory. I do not want people praying to me and forgetting God.”  - Pope Stephen X

Pope Stephen X had a huge funeral. The death came as a shock, as he was not so old. Millions considered him as a good Christian that was fixing the Church, while others, including his own parents, were sure he was destroying the Church. This was forgotten on his funeral day. People could all agree with that he was a pope that would be remembered.

The Vatican announced that the cause of death was a weak heart. There was an autopsy by Vatican doctors, but these were not released to the public.

Cardinal Lorenzo was elected at the new Pope. It was as if the old guard was now back in power. His election did not help unite the Church. Millions of Catholics believed that he would roll back the reforms that Pope Stephen did. As he stood out on the balcony, he was smiling. The new Pope said he would not be a Pope of turmoil. He will not upset the Church any more than it is. The Pope stressed that the Church must be a strong Church. Many people took this speech as a criticism of Pope Stephen. A secretary in the Vatican told Pope Lorenzo said that the Church was blessed by the death of Pope Stephen. This was a shock to many in the Vatican, that did not think it was appropriate talking bad about a former Pope,

It was like Pope Lorenzo was being haunted. Pope Stephens doctor said that he had a check-up 4 months before and despite some high blood pressure, the former Popes heart was in good condition and even the blood pressure was also under control. The Doctor called for the autopsy reports to be released. The Vatican refused.

Birth Control was one of Pope Stephens major changes. People could now decide if they would use it or not. Pope Stephen called on these people to pray and meditate before they use it. One would have thought this new tolerance from the Church would make no difference, as after all the majority of Catholics already used artificial birth control. It did give many Catholics peace of mind. Charities in third world countries praised it, as it meant that people could limit the number of children they had and not be pushed in worse poverty because of big families.

Some Catholics were afraid that Pope Stephen was about to allow abortion. However, when Pope Stephen's diary was released, he wrote that he considered abortion against the wishes of God. Pope Stephen wrote that women who wish to have an abortion should get counseling and compassion.

The diary also showed Pope Stephens views towards homosexuals. He considered it against the will of God, but at the same time, he acknowledged the love involved. He wrote, “The Church could support this love by a blessing, but marriage and adoption would be against Gods will.”

The Diary of Pope Stephen was published and became a best seller. The interesting thing with the diary was that he did not sound like a great reformer. Homosexuality and abortion were examples of this. He wrote he could see both sides of the case and it was very difficult to decide what was acceptable and not. The Pope wrote what was needed was more understanding of each other and respect. Judging and decriminalization was the wrong path.

Another thing Pope Stephen stressed in his diary was the family. He believed the Family was the core of the Church and more important than any cathedral or Vatican. The diary shows that his faith was strong because of his parents and grandmother. Their religious example and teachings were the foundation of his faith.

The death of Pope Stephen and the release of the diary overshadowed the papacy of Pope Lorenzo. He told a friend that it was like Pope Stephen was still the Pope. Catholics were discussing him and trying to know more about his beliefs by reading the diary. Most also observed that the new Pope did not roll back any changes Pope Stephen made. An insider from the Vatican told me that Pope Lorenzo did not dare to change things the way they were, as Pope Stephen was more popular in death than when he was alive. This must have been hard for Pope Lorenzo, who was against these reforms. It is said he allowed these changes to stay to secure his position as the Pope.

Pope Lorenzo did refuse to release the autopsy report about Pope Stephen. He explained that Stephen was dead, let us give him rest. This may have worked a century ago, but people did not agree. They wanted answers. The web suddenly became the home for many conspiracy theories. Poll after poll showed that people thought there was a cover-up by the Vatican. Still, Pope Lorenzo thought that the theories and discontent would fade away.

The Vatican had a problem and this was their newly established office that helped prosecute priests that were accused of molesting a child. This meant that around 5.000 priests no longer had parish duties and were being tried by civil law. These cases opened old wounds and were extremely embarrassing for the Church. Pope Lorenzo did not like it, as an insider once told me, Pope Lorenzo exploded in his office one day saying the media thought that he was the Pope of pedophiles. He shouted that the Church needed these 5000 priests. In public, Pope Lorenzo smiled as he told the press that “sometimes it is important to clean one's own house and get rid of all the bad apples. It is hard work, but in the end, it will be better for everyone.”

Pope Lorenzo was not happy when he found out that a group of bishops founded a society called “the Stephenites”. This was not a religious order. It was a group of clergy and laypeople that thought that Pope Stephens work was not done. They promoted a more down to earth church that was less political and more apostolic. They promoted a better society with tolerance and respect. More important they promoted that God become a central part of family life.

It was a “Stephenite” that cause Pope Lorenzo's biggest crises. A Stepenite leaked the autopsy report to the press. In this report, it was shown that the Pope was poisoned and his death was a murder. This caused a huge public response, that was outraged at the report. People had two questions. Why was this covered up by a Vatican lie? The bigger question was what the morality was of those that lived in the Vatican?

Pope Lorenzo thought that silence would be the best answer. He tried to silence people by telling them that many priests were now married and 20% of those that would shortly be ordained were women. The Pope said that the Church knows that priests are human and they make great husbands and fathers. This was, of course, his public face. Behind the scenes, he told people that married priests would cost the Church millions, as the Church no longer had a right to inherit a priests fortune when they died. He vowed that he would never ordain a woman as a bishop.

Pope Lorenzo could not silence the media about the death of Pope Stephen. Catholics no longer trusted the Vatican or the Pope. Pope Lorenzo lied to them and said it was heart failure. This led many Catholics to believe that it was Pope Lorenzo himself that poisoned Pope Stephen.

Pope Lorenzo was under pressure and tried to fix his image by proclaiming Pope Stephen as a saint. This was rejoiced by many in the Church. Pope Stephens mom and Dad even told the press how proud they were.

It did not solve Pope Lorenzo's problems. He got what he wanted, but would be remembered as the Pope that poisoned another Pope. Even the people at the Vatican believed this. Pope Lorenzo was isolated and in many ways powerless, as his words meant nothing to the majority.

The Stephenites grew in size, and even many in the Vatican joined the group. It is uncertain if they will make the world a better place, but the Pope that followed Pope Lorenzo admitted freely that he was a Stephenite.

Pope Stephen X's spirit still lives on.

The end

 

 

 


© Copyright 2020 Alexander Temple. All rights reserved.

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