The Vatican might as well convert the Papal Apartments -- a euphemism for a palatial 10-room suite featuring sumptuous furnishings and priceless works of art -- into a museum and make some money off the tourists because no pope is ever going to live there again.

They wouldn't dare, not after Pope Francis has set a precedent by refusing to move in and living instead in a simple, unadorned two-room flat elsewhere on the Vatican grounds. It would seem too immodest.

You have to hand it to Pope Francis. Refusing to move in was a masterpiece of symbolism, in line with his theme of fewer regal trappings and more humility. He's clearly a very smart guy, but what else would you expect from a Jesuit?

Which brings me to my favorite Catholic joke, which I first heard the late Harry Reasoner tell on the CBS Evening News: A Dominican, a Benedictine and a Franciscan are arguing good-naturedly about which order is the holiest, and they finally decide to submit the question to prayer.

Suddenly, the heavens open up, and down flies a pure white dove with a slip of paper in its beak, which it lays at the feet of the three monks. It reads, "You are all equally favored in my sight. Signed, God S.J."

Ebert's funeral: Meanwhile, the Westboro Baptist Church -- that vile group of homophobes who picket the funerals of fallen American soldiers -- have announced plans to picket the funeral of film critic Roger Ebert, who died last week after a heroic battle against cancer. I knew Roger slightly, and let me tell you: He would have considered it an honor.


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We were introduced by my college classmate, Gene Siskel, with whom Roger partnered in their groundbreaking movie review TV show for two decades until Gene's death -- also after a heroic battle against cancer -- in 1999.

What Gene and Roger did was amazing: no less than conducting a running, 20-year debate about art. Granted, it's a popular art -- the movies -- but their debate was a serious one. Gene and Roger may have been partners on their TV show, but they were also rivals, working for rival newspapers. And they had very different ideas about film, which they expressed with a passion that sometimes made viewers think they disliked each other.

They didn't. Yes, they argued; but they argued like brothers. They had great respect for each other, professionally and personally, and they were both right. Now Gene has company in the Great Balcony in the Sky. Thumbs up to both of them.

Funicello passes: Finally, a sad farewell to Annette Funicello, every baby boomer boy's first crush and an iconic figure to everyone my age, boy or girl. The most popular by far of all the Mousketeers, Annette grew up to become a gracious adult who bore the multiple sclerosis that eventually took her life with a dignity that surprised none of her fans.

She was called "America's Sweetheart" because she always seemed to be even prettier on the inside than she was on the outside. No scandal, no story of diva-like behavior, ever attached itself to her name. The only consolation is that her suffering is over. So long, Annette.

M-I-C. See you real soon.

K-E-Y. Why? Because we like you!

M-O-U-S-E.

Reach Martin Snapp at catman@sunset.net.

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