The Vanishing Pope of South Jersey

This past weekend a papal scandal broke out in the quiet south Jersey suburb of Washington Township.

The drama started on the Facebook page of Township Talk, a community based forum, popular for sharing clip-art inspired flyers for charity fundraising events, promotions for local businesses (their most recent post is for a trivia night hosted by a plumbing company), and general public service announcements like someone saying there was a lot of traffic on the Black Horse Pike.

On Friday afternoon Robin Mcknight-Franke posted on Township Talk’s page that a life size cutout of Pope Francis had gone missing during a fundraising event held at St. Charles Borromeo, a Catholic church in the town. The Facebook page shared her post, which included a picture of the holy cutout, asking residents “Have you seen the Pope??”

A great schism erupted in the comments section.

Marcie Stewart Dewey wrote “How does someone just walk out a door with the Pope?? (and I need this to stop showing up in my newsfeed, because I can’t stop laughing!)”

The official account of Township Talk came to the defense of the faith by answering back “The church isn’t laughing. They want it back.”

Gina Ann Marie Goestschius called for direct action. “Karma is definitely coming your way if you don’t return it. I am going to look around for a replacement and see if we can get someone to plexiglass it”.

Gina also spotted an opening for self-promotion, as her comment continued with “I am The Famous NJ Wedding Officiant & Notary- GINA (🙏) so I am a legit business too PRAYERS TO THOSE WHO TOOK IT”

Soon in the comments section new details emerged of the crime, with an incredible description of the purported suspect of this blasphemous caper:

“An older blonde woman 70ish carrying a shoulder bag with oxygen lines around her neck. The older woman was heard arguing that it was okay to take the Pope because the hall was part of a rec center, and not an actual church, and that her son dressed as the Pope last year for Halloween so he would want the Pope”.

The scandal gained gravitas as the Washington Township Police Department thought it necessary to post a status about the theft of a piece of property valued under $200, late Friday night. The post was shared over 700 times.

However as the story spread, not everyone was taking the pontiff’s disappearance as seriously as the authorities. On Saturday night Township Talk went again on the defensive, posting a long polemic against the unbelievers, the antipopes, who may be asking “Why all the fuss while ‘real’ crimes are being committed?”. For Township Talk, “regardless of what was taken, a planter of mums, a Welcome Sign, a child’s bike!~ it truly doesn’t’ matter it is still theft. And we all want our stuff back-immediately, if not sooner”.

Township Talk went even further, suggesting the pope heist was an opportunity for us to come together as a society. “Maybe it’s time we rally around St. Charles and let them know, we know the feeling. And hopefully the Woman described as taking it…just gives her back. Maybe it’ll restore our faith in People.” The post seems to have been deleted. 
 The papist saga’s concluded, fittingly, on Sunday. The original poster of missing cardboard pope status, Robin Mcknight-Franke, posted that “The Pope IS BACK HOME at St. Charles!!” Thank you Township Talk and all who got the word out there!”

Perhaps there was justified criticism that a piece of carboard was getting headlines and attention from the Police. But maybe that deleted Township Talk post was right, and that at the moment the missing Pope was miraculously returned, our faith in People was restored immediately, if not sooner.