Pope Benedict XVI


By Mark Gabrish Conlan

April 11, 2013 (San Diego) – I can remember the first time I experienced a Papal conclave. No, it wasn’t a real one; it was the one depicted in the 1969 film The Shoes of the Fisherman. It’s about a Ukrainian archbishop, Kiril (Anthony Quinn), who was tortured in the Gulag, gets summoned to Rome, is made a cardinal and suddenly finds himself in the middle of a conclave when the Pope who appointed him dies. The conclave deadlocks and Kiril is elected Pope as a compromise candidate, then uses his new-found powers to mediate an end to the Cold War and ward off a military threat to the West from China. It was based on a novel by Morris L. West, a potboiler author of religious books, and though it wasn’t much as a movie I found the depiction of the rituals of the conclave absolutely stunning — particularly the repeated puffs of black smoke signaling that the cardinals hadn’t yet reached the two-thirds majority for picking a Pope.