The Pope Campaigns For His Job

Excerpt from my Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories order on or from me at 1525 Hampton Road, Charleston, WV. Send $10 plus $3 postage.

Cardinal Montini
The soccer field was outlined with decorative potted palm trees and the school band stood ready in their new uniforms.A black Mercedes with a bishop at the wheel pulled into the field. A smiling, fellow Cardinal, held the door as Cardinal Montini emerged from the back seat. The school band played the Catholic equivalent of Hail to the Chief.

The future Pope looked like a short Lyndon Johnson–big nose but a brighter almost boyish smile. He was no less a politician than Johnson. I didn’t realize it at the time but Montini was on the campaign trail, visiting Cardinals all over the world, gathering votes. Prospective Popes don’t sit in Italy and wait for God to point them out to the their electors. They get out and beat the bushes, fly all over the world, spend thousands of dollars, maybe even millions to get God to finger them through the vote of the Cardinals. Montini just did not have the faith that God would make his choice of Vicar on earth obvious to the voters without some friendly nudging from the candidate.
I don’t know why I expected him to start speaking fluent English. Montini spoke in a heavily Italian accented English to the mass of school children, Irish nuns, priests and lay workers and one Peace Corps Volunteer. Montini’s accent may have been as unintelligible as mine.
The future Pope’s outfit was beautiful and expensive with lots of scarlet. There were thousands of dollars, fine cuisine, comfortable homes, luxury cars and servants between the hierachy and their humble followers that day.
Jesus might have been in the crowd but he wouldn’t have been in the expensive clothes. The big shots made sure everyone knew they were princes of the church, there was no Christian humility wasted. There were the haves and the have nots. The difference could have been instructive to the finely dressed royalty.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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