I’m afraid that in all the hullabaloo, pomp and circumstance, and ceremonial prayer chanting surrounding the selection of a new pope, some of the most important considerations might get lost.

Never fear, all you 115 cardinals packed like robe-wearing sardines into the Sistine Chapel. I’m on your side, boys.

I am Catholic, but probably not as actively engaged in the teachings, business and workings of the church as I should be. I doubt my many shortcomings can be balanced out by saying a few Hail Marys.

Still, I’ve got ideas.

I know all these prelates — in case you didn’t know, that’s someone who ranks high in the clergy — are casting their ballots for a new pope with things like management of the Vatican and inspiration of Catholics worldwide in mind.

Leadership? A deep and abiding faith and dedication? Sure, sure. I guess those are some of the right traits to look for.

But let me humbly give my suggestions as to what would be nice to see in the fella following in the Prada-clad footsteps of now-Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

He’s got the look.

Come on, men, how about a pope with a mustache?

It would be a nice change of pace. Naturally, we don’t have photos of all popes throughout history, but ones of recent memory were clean shaven.

There’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, no one pictures all the angels in Heaven with Don Johnson-like stubble (oops...dating myself there).

But it could be inspiring in a whole new way to see a pope with a nice Tom Selleck-ish ’stache. He could look really intellectual as he listens to the readings during Mass and gently tugs thoughtfully at his hairy upper lip. There’s nothing un-holy about that, is there?

Oh sure, some folks have put Boston’s beard-sporting Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley on their list of faves to next put his posterior in the pontiff’s perch. And Jesus purportedly had a beard. But I think maintaining full facial hair, neatly trimmed and in order, might take away too much time from the work of the church these days.

A simple mustache would give the next pope a little more character without making him spend allegedly vain time taking care of it.

If he’s a man who likes a cliché, I guess he could have a soul patch.

One of the cool things about Benedict XVI was his cute red Prada shoes. It made him a little more human, you know — for the rank and file to see that even a pope can have a little indulgence once in a while that still fits into a vow of poverty.

Jesus walked among humans to, in part, help us relate to Him as a “man.” Can’t the pope throw us a little “I’m-human-too” bone and have a bit of fashion sense?

I know, I know: We won’t soon see Pope John Paul XYZ sporting khakis and a polo shirt at Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square, but could he consider a WWJD wristband? Maybe a “CCR” (Catholic Church Rocks) lapel pin? Perhaps a “Got God?” baseball cap?

Oh, it’s just an idea.

What’s in a name?

I sure hope the new pope (good golly, now I’m rhyming) chooses an easy name. Come on — give some of us members of the press a break. Skip that “Pope Fred XVII” or IXVB or ABC or ASPCA. Just make it “Pope Harold” and keep the string of big capital letters out of it.

If I had a vote, and the new Big Guy at the Vatican wanted to follow in one of his predecessor’s footsteps, I might choose “Pope Hilarius” after the pope in the years 461-68. Sure, the new one would have to use the “II,” but he could tell jokes with impunity, couldn’t he?

“A pope, a rabbi and an imam walk into a bar ...”

Just don’t choose “John” in your name, huh, bud? Good grief! You’d think there are no other guys but John to look up to in the Bible. Haven’t y’all heard of Matthew, Mark and Luke?

If the new pope likes to read Westerns, and especially Louis L’Amour, he could be “Pope Lando II.” Just sayin’.

If he’s a man of originality, the new pope won’t go with the name “Innocent” either; we’d probably get him mixed up with the other 11 popes who have taken that moniker. “Paul” seems a little overused in the last century, from Paul VI to John Paul I to, of course, John Paul II.

What would really be cool is if we had a pope named, for example, “Pope Mary Thaddaeus.” For those who don’t know, Catholic nuns such as the Dominicans who do so much good work across the state of Illinois typically choose two names when they join the order.

My great aunt, for example, was “Sister Mary John,” bless her sweet soul, and her best friend who was like family to us was “Sister Mary Wilma.” Some of the nuns I had in catechism were Sr. M. Harris, Sr. M. John Dominic and Sr. M. Mathias.

If nuns can choose traditionally male names as they begin their lifelong vocations, how about a guy bold enough to be known as “Pope Mary Bartholomew,” for example? That might be a gesture that some female Catholics would appreciate.

Don’t look for these traits.

I can tell you some things we won’t see in the next pope.

-- He won’t have a full, thick, luxurious head of curly hair. If he did, how would he wear that little hat that looks like a tea saucer upside down on his head? Bald spots are made for that itty bitty skullcap, technically a “zucchetto.”

-- His name won’t be Benedict XVII. People would get the No. 1 pope and the No. 1 emeritus mixed up. Can you imagine the headaches there for the Vatican postal carrier?

-- He’ll smile and wave. A lot. Kind of like Miss America, only with less colorful nails.

Now, I don’t mean to be irreverant with any of my silly suggestions for the next pope. I love the rich tradition, consistency and other good things about the Catholic Church. I just think it might be helpful for future pontiffs to — like Jesus — show they’re a little like “the rest of us” and yet still deliver stellar spiritual leadership.

Good luck, all you Catholic cardinals. Just remember: When in doubt, “WWPJPIID.” It may be too complicated for a bumper sticker, but considering “what would Pope John Paul II do” might help you out.

I just hope each of y’all isn’t voting for himself. How embarrassing would that be?!

(1) comment


If I had made the decision, I know I would have insisted that he bring his wife to the job interview. One of the reasons I voted for Romney is because I was impressed with his better half.

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