Not dead yet

I don't often read The Scotsman, but you have to love a newspaper that puts the "key points" up front, in bullets. Slim chance of burying the lede with this approach. In this case, the highlights are:

-¢ Pope's condition is "no reason for alarm"

-¢ The pontiff has an inflammation of the breathing passage

-¢ Millions of Catholics flock to churches over the world to pray for his recovery

Also at the head of the piece is a "key quote" that records church historian Michael Walsh as saying, "I don't think it is time for cardinals to start packing their bags in preparation for the next conclave just yet."

Indeed. Time's account documents how news of the pope's latest ailment took on a life of its own:

The Pope was hoarse but in high spirits at Sunday's traditional Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square. Less than 24 hours later, papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls released a statement canceling all of John Paul's appointments for Monday because of what was described as a mild case of the flu. The plugged-in Italian press corps took a light approach to the story by noting that the 84-year-old Pope had caught the same flu bug that had already bitten half of Rome. Tuesday morning another statement cleared the Pope's calendar for the next two days, but confirmed that there was nothing serious about his condition. But when the Italian newswire ANSA flashed word just after 11 p.m. local Rome time on Tuesday that the Pontiff had been rushed to Gemelli hospital, there was a worldwide perception that the worst had happened.

The pope, we are informed, had trouble breathing, went to the hospital, and will remain there for a few days to recover. The pontiff's recovery seems to be proceeding at an acceptable pace. Wednesday morning, the pope "held Mass from his hospital bed after a light breakfast and coffee."

But, of course, that doesn't stop Time from reiterating the obvious -- John Paul II is old, not immortal, and will, therefore, at some point, die -- and speculating about possible candidates to warm the chair of Saint Peter.

A cynic who took a good look at the journalism business might compare us to buzzards circling in the desert. After all, we're constantly updating obits so that we can slot them in on deadline when important and/or famous figures finally die. When the subject of the obit is really important, opinion pages often commission articles that look at his legacy or riff off of his death. In the case of the current pope, the backlog of copy must be something to behold.

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