Politics not getting anybody interested, then? OK, we’ll try religion.
I was brought up a Catholic. I grew out of it, of course; saw sense, kicked over the traces. But even when I was a devout Catholic, I think I would have found it very strange, to the point of macabre, to queue for hours to see a recently-dead body; and then to take photographs of it.
Indeed, I’m fairly sure that the Catholicism I grew up with would have frowned on it. That empty shell is not John Paul II, after all: he has gone on, you know? Been “called home”, in the words of President Bush (pity it wasn’t him. But I digress).
Not that I believe in any of that. I strongly suspect that old Karol has discovered that in the afterlife there is nothing but a purple glow and a humming sound; and that even he isn’t there. If I remember my Vonnegut aright. So it goes.
When my Dad died I went to see his body. At the undertaker’s; in private, with just the family there. It seemed a normal, natural thing to do. Sad, obviously, but a part of saying goodbye, of coming to terms with his death. So I suppose the devout Catholics who are queueing for hours to see the Pope’s body are going through a similar thing; and since he was a public figure, it all happens under the camera’s glare.
But really: they didn’t know him. He wasn’t family, or a close friend, however important he might be to their faith. So I can’t help thinking it smacks of thanatophilia; almost idolatry; and I’m sure the church I grew up in wouldn’t have approved.