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Sunday 4 December 2016

Pope Francis isn't suddenly fallible just because he's missed the joys of Xpose

I'm beginning to think Pope Francis is not as daft as he sometimes lets on. Anyone who's responsible for the chattering classes getting their knickers in a twist has to be a smart cookie, on some level.

The revelation during the week that the Pope hasn't watched television since 1990 has put the pigeon of peace (phrase copyright Jimmy Magee, 1980 Olympics) among the hep cats.

"How could he?" they bleat. "He's so out of touch."

Listen. Just because he's never seen Kay Burley or Xpose, doesn't mean he's suddenly fallible. In fact, contrary to those whose lives are measured by changing hemlines, the Pope is bang on trend. Keira Knightly doesn't have a telly either. And didn't Madonna declare "TV is trash"?

buffoon

Consider how wise the Pope is. He must be the only person on the planet who doesn't care a jot that Jeremy Clarkson is an insufferable buffoon and churl. Top Gear? He probably thinks people are talking about his big hat.

No wonder the saintly man seems so composed and unflustered. He's not worrying whether Tracy Barlow will have her collar felt and be up before the beak again in Coronation Street.

Or fretting because his favourite Peaky Blinders' stars were snubbed by the BAFTAs.

It strikes me the Pope is on the same page as John Lennon who, before he was shot down, said: "If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace."

In a weird way, the Pope has done us all a favour. As his revelation began trending, people started considering their viewing habits. Studies show that, in the Western world, people watch between five and 10 hours of television a day.

That's a sizeable amount of hours every week when they're stuck in a room, not out communicating with people, apart from firing off salvos of trolling tweets about Miriam O'Callaghan's jeggings or some clown on #VINB.

It used to be said, "You are what you eat." Now it's what you watch. And also the crisps and chocolates consumed while watching cookery shows designed to promote healthy diets.

The Pope knows that the TV or laptop is our equivalent of the cake that Marie Antoinette allegedly suggested the hungry proletariat eat. They had spin doctors in those days too. Another series of Place in the Sun or ICA Boot Camp and maybe those pesky protesters will stay off the streets. As if.

While the Vatican has shown itself to be out of step with the Irish electorate, declaring the recent marriage equality referendum a "defeat for humanity", we can only applaud the Pope's position on television. It's a welcome certainty that he won't be appearing on a celebrity edition of Gogglebox any time soon.

Of course back in the Sixties another high priest, Marshall McLuhan, a man considered the pontiff of popular culture, warned of how, through the medium of television, the advertising industry was creating markets where previously none had existed.

I'm sure it's not because Christians who spend countless hours watching the telly can't be bothered to spend five minutes in church that the Pope denies himself a flatscreen.

But his faithful followers, who enjoy The Meaning of Life or Game of Thrones, can take consolation in knowing that Pope Francis has probably never heard of Fr Todd Unctious.

You'll hear conspiracy theorists claim that, after Argentina were reduced to 10 men in the 1990 World Cup final, the Pope did a deal with the higher powers.

Like giving up sweets for Lent, only more heavy duty. I don't believe them. Maybe he just heard the Boss singing, "57 Channels and nothin' on..."

Either way, I'm with Pope Francis. And I envy how, when asked about the Big Brother House, he can reply, "What? Sure don't I live in the Big Brother House?"

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