A year ago this week, the ageing, doctrinaire and aristocratic Pope, Benedict XVI, shocked keen Vatican watchers and the public alike by his sudden resignation. Few were prepared for the shockwaves that would follow.
The church had become embroiled in scandal after scandal: from corruption at the Vatican Bank through to its continuing refusal to deal with sexual abuse. It had lost, many would have thought irretrievably, what little relevance it still claimed in the contemporary world.
So nobody would have predicted that, less than a year later, Benedict’s successor would be lauded as Person of the Year by both Time magazine and, even more surprisingly, the lesbian and gay newsweekly, The Advocate. Then one-time-youth-culture bible Rolling Stone’s cover story earlier this year made it official: the man Gawker dubbed “cool Pope Francis” is a rock star.