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Digital death masks

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.