Sunday, April 10, 2005


A smile, a handshake and an international incident

Certainly you didn't think that the pope's funeral would be without political intrigue and back-biting?

As a non-Catholic who's occasionally attended mass I've always found quaint the "sign of peace" custom whereby adjacent congregants are invited to shake hands. One wonders whether Israeli president Moshe Katsav, Iranian president Mohammed Khatami and Syrian president Bashar Assad anticipated this tradition when they noticed how close they were seated at the funeral.

Though Katsav and Assad have fessed up to actually shaking hands, Khatami has denied that he made any such contact with Katsav. Heaven forefend that top Iranian and Israeli officials should ever show any signs of reconciliation for one another. One can only imagine if, in an attempt to modernize the liturgy, these men were required to high five.

Actually, I found somewhat more odious, the specter of Prince Charles shaking hands with Robert Mugabe, the notoriously corrupt, newly "elected" president of the morally bankrupt Zimbabwean government. Vatican City is not a E.U. member state and is one of the few countries of the region in which he's allowed to travel. The U.S. and European Union have forbid him entry because of his human rights violations as well as his inability to curb his Zimbabwe "expense account" spending.

Of course he could have chosen to visit Turkey but the shopping isn't as good.

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