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Of Politicians, Passports and Popes

Germans are known as serious and hard-working people, but the country's unruly politicians are habitually letting passions and intrigues run rampant. Now, even the pope has been dragged into the post-election fun ride.

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The pope will get to keep his German passport, after all

During his recent visit to the Vatican, Bavarian premier and leader of the Conservative Social Union (CSU) Edmund Stoiber did what any practicing Catholic would do if he got a chance for a private tête-à-tête with the leader of the Catholic Church: he confessed.

The Holy Father, who just happens to be Bavarian himself, asked Stoiber why he had changed his mind about joining the government of his coalition partner and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) leader Angela Merkel.

CDU/CSU Fraktionssitzung in Berlin Merkel und Stoiber

Stoiber and Merkel are, it seems, not a match made in heaven

Stoiber, as he later told a small group of friends, answered that the situation in Berlin had changed after Franz Müntefering decided to step down as leader of the Social Democrats (SPD). What's more, Stoiber and Merkel are not best suited for each other:

"I just can't deal with her," Stoiber said.

It is unlikely that the Holy Father is himself leaking confession scoops to German tabloids. He is, after all, sworn to professional secrecy. But the alleged content of this conversation, nonetheless, ended up in the Sunday edition of the German tabloid Bild.

Stoiber should maybe start wondering about how loyal his friends really are.

Just like Dynasty, only better

Koalitionsverhandlungen - Stoiber und Müntefering

Friendship across party lines: Müntefering (left) and Stoiber

The bizarre spectacle of German politics -- part soap-opera, part "Dangerous Liaisons" -- does not cease to amaze the dumbfounded public. How come Stoiber can't stand Angela Merkel, his closest political ally, but seems so terribly fond of the leader of the Social-Democratic arch-nemesis?

Is it because Stoiber, as a good Catholic, literally interpreted the Biblical commandment: "Love thy enemy!" or is it because emotions sway more power than political convictions in the Byzantine maze of post-election coalition building? Will Stoiber and Müntefering, when all is said and done, forget about the economic reforms and walk happily into the sunset, holding hands? Will Angela Merkel -- whom Stoiber once nonchalantly categorized as "the Protestant woman from the East" -- be driven mad by jealousy?

Or will Benedict XVI -- the Teutonic papa ex machina -- be asked to interfere, march to Berlin with his Swiss guards and teach the German politicians how to get a clue?

Collective papacy

Presseschau: Bild-Zeitung: Wir sind Papst!

The day Germany got itself a new pope

Germans are, after all, obsessed with having a compatriot on St. Peter's throne. The same newspaper that reported about Stoiber's intimate chitchat with the pope, ran the headline "We are pope!" when Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in April 2005 (photo). The overwhelming sense of collective German papacy has recently lead Green party politician Hans-Christian Ströbele to ask whether Pope Benedict XVI could still be considered German since the German law doesn't allow dual citizenship.

The German foreign ministry, however, fired back a very clever response: the pope actually never applied for foreign citizenship but was elected into office, which came with a convenient, no-strings-attached kind of bonus citizenship package. German citizenship is revoked from those who apply for foreign citizenship, not for those who get it because they're lucky.

So, the pope gets to keep his German passport and the country gets to keep enjoying its pontifical mirror-image. Which is good. If the CDU, CSU and SPD don't get their act together and form a functioning government any time soon, radical changes on the German political horizon may have to be brought into play.

How about: Pope for chancellor?

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