Monday, 7 January 2013

Archbishop Plourde: The Pope is dead, long live the Pope

I read today that Archbishop Joseph-Aurele Plourde died on Saturday at the ripe old age of 97.
Funny the things you remember about people.
I actually had a bit of a run-in with the Archbishop, back in the Ottawa Journal days, when I was a night reporter. It was 3 a.m. when the incident began. I remember exactly because 3 a.m. was the time I was finished and I was trying to sneak out before Jake McLean, our night city editor, barked for me to cover a fire or some other kind of police matter.
It's what I tell my kids. If you want to be a reporter and you're looking for a bit of action, you can't do better than night shift.
Nothing good comes between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Anyway, I was sneaking on my coat and heading for the door when I heard the bells on the teletype machine, which meant something really, really bad had happened.
As expected, I heard Jake's sultry tone.
"Simpson, get back here."
The guys on the desk were laughing their heads off. It's the kind of gallows humor you get in a night newsroom. The deskers could make a joke about anything.
"We need for you to call the Archbishop," said Dave Milliken, one of my other bosses.
"The Archbishop?"
"Yep. The Pope is dead."
I rolled my eyes at the joke of it all.
"Yes, I know. The Pope died like a month ago."
"No, the new Pope."
It seemed John Paul the First, J2P2, as we called him, had expired suddenly, just a month after being installed. Who would believe it?
So my job was to wake up the Archbishop of Ottawa to tell him the news.
By this time it was 4 a.m.
The phone was answered by some groggy priest.
"Ah hem, hello, my name is Rose Simpson. I'm a reporter for the Ottawa Journal. So sorry to disturb but I'm calling to tell the Archibishop that the Pope has died."
"Yes, we know."
"No, you don't understand. The Pope. The new Pope. He died suddenly."
Another pause.
"Could you please ask the Archbishop to come to the phone?"
"I'm sorry, but I can't wake him unless it's an emergency."
Me. The non-Catholic, mustered the nerve to say...
"Well, if the Pope dying isn't an emergency in the Catholic church, I don't know what is."
The priest refused to budge, and hung up.
A few minutes later, the phone rang.
My colleague, Mike Strobel answered the call.
"Hello, this is the Archbishop. Is it true?"
In my one conversation with the Archbishop, I heard his voice trembling and he admitted that his faith was shaken.
It was a good story. He gave good quotes.
I liked him.
So I was sorry to hear of his passing today.
I hope he would like to hear this story.

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