The pope, I couldn’t care less about.

Though if you do, you should read Robert Silverberg’s short story “Good News From The Vatican”, which you can download here, and is available in bookshops here. I’ll even lend it out if you ask nice. It’s about a random group sat in a café outside the Vatican, waiting for the white puff of smoke – the twist being they’re divided over the papacy and whether a robot should really be one of the candidates…

This is the morning everyone has waited for, when at last the robot cardinal is to be elected Pope. There can no longer be any doubt of the outcome. The conclave has been deadlocked for many days between the obstinate advocates of Cardinal Asciuga of Milan and Cardinal Carcifo of Genoa, and word has gone out that a compromise is in the making. All factions now are agreed on the selection of the robot. This morning I read in Osservatore Romano that the Vatican computer itself has taken a hand in the deliberations. The computer has been strongly urging the candidacy of the robot. I suppose we should not be surprised by this loyalty among machines. Nor should we let it distress us. We absolutely must not let it distress us.

“Every era gets the Pope it deserves,” Bishop FitzPatrick observed somewhat gloomily today at breakfast. “The proper Pope for our times is a robot, certainly. At some future date it may be desirable for the Pope to be a whale, an automobile, a cat, a mountain.” Bishop FitzPatrick stands well over two meters in height and his normal facial expression is a morbid, mournful one. Thus it is impossible for us to determine whether any particular pronouncement of his reflects existential despair or placid acceptance. Many years ago he was a star player for the Holy Cross championship basketball team. He has come to Rome to do research for a biography of St. Marcellus the Righteous.

We have been watching the unfolding drama of the papal election from an outdoor cafe several blocks from the Square of St. Peter‘s. For all of us, this has been an unexpected dividend of our holiday in Rome; the previous Pope was reputed to be in good health and there was no reason to suspect that a successor would have to be chosen for him this summer.

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