Suggestions for Pope Benedict XVI

It’s never too soon to begin discussing the new papacy’s goals and areas to improve.

by Bobak Ha’eri

Although I am disappointed no one in the Vatican read my previous article suggesting we extend the life of Pope John Paul II by turning him into a cyborg, I haven’t given up hope: I think I can help make the papacy better.

While it’s true Pope Benedict XVI seems even more conservative than JP2, that doesn’t mean he’s opposed to certain changes.

I think the papacy remains out of touch with the world’s youth – particularly in the developed world. JP2 recognized that and made efforts to reach out to them because they are Catholicism’s future. I don’t think he went far enough. No, making the Catholic Church more appealing calls for an overhaul of how the pope interacts with his followers.

For starters, why not have a reality TV series based in the Holy See? We could call it “A Papal Life.” Who wouldn’t be curious to see what life is like for the man who has a billion followers? It worked for the Osbourne family, it can work for a 78-year-old German man. To shake things up, they can give him a roommate in the papal apartment, like a New Age guru or something.

But why stop there? The pontificate needs to be more cyber-savvy. I propose weekly online chats with the pope, in which believers and the curious can pitch questions and hope for answers. But I realize a sane person wouldn’t want to moderate such a project – just imagine all the translation and filtering!

Of course, the pope could also start a blog. I’m sure pontiffs come up with all sorts of interesting ideas during the day and never get a chance to write them down. Having some sort of papal LiveJournal would be a great way of letting us know more about who he is by posting random thoughts, poetry, jokes and whatever news articles he found interesting.

Nothing appeals to youth more than image, and I think the pope could really swing his image in his favor.

First off, the children today are really into silly nicknames, such as “J-Lo” and “Dubya.” Why not have a little fun creating a hip short-form of Pope Benedict XVI? “B-16” is an option, but it sounds too much like a WWII bomber. I’d lean toward something fun, such as “Big Ben.” Of course, the new pope isn’t particularly big, but that would only help underscore a level of self-aware irony that’s very trendy in today’s culture. That’s not to say “Medium Ben” wouldn’t have appeal.

In fact, the Vatican could try to co-opt the popularity of the band Modest Mouse by changing the pope’s short form to “Modest Ben” – which would suit the current pope’s demeanor. If the pope isn’t completely opposed to ditching his former name of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he could try to be edgy and be known lovingly as “The Rat.”

Regardless of the nickname, the Vatican needs to help the pope exploit his identity and get people closer to him. I say give him an iPod and do a story on what he decides to put on his playlist.

I would also like to see him host a film screening or two. He could have a screen set up in St. Peter’s Square and show some of his favorite movies with a lecture to follow. Why not start a book club? Stuff like that would really help make him accessible and interesting to his young followers.

As a final note to all future papal candidates: There are many other good names languishing from lack of use. Please consider becoming Pope Hilarius II, Cletus II or Lando II.

Bobak Ha’Eri welcomes comments at [email protected]