The politics and rituals surrounding the selection of a new pope are even more opaque and mysterious than the back-room negotiations over a long-term EU budget (a recent source of obsession at the Brussels Blog).
Herman Van Rompuy, the European council president, has added to the sense of papal mystery surrounding the resignation announced on Monday by Benedict XVI with the release of a terse, two-line statement.
Typically, such statements – churned out on a near-constant basis by the EU presidents, are akin to diplomatic form letters, congratulating this or that leader on some milestone or another.
This one is unusual for its brevity. It reads: “I deeply respect the decision of Pope Benedict XVI, especially since it is not in line with tradition. His pontificate has been short but very difficult.”
What does Van Rompuy, a devoted Catholic and celebrated haiku writer, mean?