February 12, 2029, Vatican City, Rome, Italy
“This is the reception area for Pope Kellan’s guests. Please feel free to relax on one of the sofas and have some of Italy’s finest chilled spring water.” With his quick comment about the water, the priest who guided Janet and Benjamin to the Pope’s office, seamlessly hands them off to the First Assistant to ‘His Holiness.’
“Welcome, Ambassador Jagger. I am Nicholas Esposito. It is a pleasure to meet you.”
“And you as well. I’d like to introduce you to my assistant. Benjamin Hume, this is the Reverend Father Nicholas Esposito.”
Benjamin moves his cup of spring water to his left land and discreetly dries his right hand on his pants leg to greet the priest. “It’s nice to meet you. My son and I are members of the Catholic Church of America. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to telling James I was able to meet the priests of Vatican City and speak personally with the Pope.”
“How marvelous! How old is your son?”
“A great age for a boy, I’m sure he is enjoying the wonderful world of sports.”
“You are right. He plays baseball, and he is a very enthusiastic Yankee’s fan.”
“Well, I hope we will have the chance to meet him in the future. Pope Kellan has another guest in his office, but will be with you soon. I am aware you’re attending the Religion Roundtable at the top of the hour. We will certainly respect your time.”
Janet thanks him and smiles big at Benjamin. “Can you believe this? I’m not even Catholic and my toes are tingling. After hearing Pope Kellan’s blessing yesterday, I’ve become a big fan of this man.”
Benjamin is about to speak when the office door opens, and Anna Cohen forcefully exits. She abruptly asks a member of the Vatican’s Security Team for an escort, and barely addresses Janet as she brushes by. “Hello, Jagger” she mutters before she charges down the hallway with a security officer struggling to keep up with her.
Janet is too shocked to reply. She raises an eyebrow to Benjamin who nods in disbelief. Minutes later, they are seated in the Pope’s office exchanging pleasantries. Janet senses the Pope is struggling to focus. Anna must have upset him. Master Cohen has a reputation of upsetting world leaders. It’s one of the reasons she’s practically worshiped in the current political environment. The Millennials see her as disrupter of the world’s “corrupt powerful figureheads.” Time Magazine just put her picture on their cover, declaring her the “Person of the Year.” Like her or not, it’s likely every world leader will have to deal with her at some point—the Pope included.
“Ambassador, I’ve heard you are hesitant to put your support behind the Thirteen Mandates for a United World. I’m very interested in your reasoning. This is not the proper forum for a discussion on the matter, but I would very much appreciate it if you could send me your thoughts on each individual Mandate. I encourage you to open your thoughts on why you believe they will negatively affect mankind. I trust your instinct. I am an admirer of your work in the Third World Nations. We share a deep compassion for the downtrodden. The Mandates were designed to lift our less fortunate brothers and sisters. When I received word you were not a supporter, I asked my staff to invite you here for this conversation. Would you be willing to send me your notes?”
Janet looks at Benjamin before answering. “Of course—we just finished a draft of my concerns for Vice President Brooke. We can modify it a little and send it to you. I appreciate your openness to receive feedback from the opposition.”
“You know, I believe that sentence sums up the entire job description of a Pope.” Janet laughs. In the last few minutes of their visit, Pope Kellan gives his guests a visual tour of Vatican City as seen from his office windows. He allows Benjamin to take a few photos of them together and to exchange zucchettos with him. “I will be pleased to wear your gifted zucchetto to the Religion Roundtable.” Benjamin can barely contain his enthusiasm.
After security escorts them to the main floor, Janet walks with Benjamin the rest of the way to the Vatican’s exit doors. He will not be attending the Religion Roundtable and has planned a day tour of Tuscany. A text from his Uber driver notifies him the car is waiting outside the door. “I can’t believe you’re going to leave me here while you tour the most beautiful town in all of Italy.”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it: the life of an Ambassador is filled with stuffy meetings and depositions. The lives of their assistants, however, are filled with Popes, Presidents, and larger-than-life adventures in foreign lands. Well, except for Gloria, of course.” Janet laughs as she watches the car pull away from the curb. She waves and heads back into the building. An employee stationed at the Information Desk gives her directions to the bottom level conference room where the Religion Roundtable will be holding this year’s event.