Three news stories this week, with a link.  Maybe you can spot it.  They are Sepp Blatter; the Pope; and
Volkswagon.  Let’s start with the Pope.  Both Pope Francis, the current incumbent, and
Pope John Paul II, his predecessor bar one, have drawn the most amazing crowds
wherever in the world they have been. 
Pope John Paul II was arguably the first Pope to take his message
personally to all corners of the globe; it was his mission, and he became the
most widely travelled Pope in history.  I
saw him once myself in 1995, when he spoke to hundreds of thousands in Hyde
Park in Sydney, on a three day visit to Australia; I was very close to him – as
he went past, I could almost touch his car, then known rather brilliantly as
the pope-mobile.  He was old and frail,
quite puffy faced, but seemed to emanate a graceful peace, a calm aura which
had been one of the reasons I had been drawn to see him.  A few days later, he set off for the
Philippines where he celebrated mass with 5 million Philippinos, then a world
record for a single religious event.  Our
current Pope Francis has taken up John Paul’s instinct for travel, but in a
different way – gone is the bullet proof pope-mobile and in its place is, of
all things, a Fiat 500.  The symbolism is
reinforced by his determination to walk whenever he can; this is a man of his
people, unafraid of harm, someone who relies quite literally upon touch to
bring sincerity to his message.  He
refuses to be shut away; refuses to be distant. 
In the last week, he has stopped his car to lean over a barricade and
bless a disabled boy in a wheelchair with a kiss on his forehead; he has prayed
with victims of child abuse; he has spoken from the heart about the
environment, abortion and gay marriage in front of politicians in the middle of
a Presidential election campaign.  In one
sense, of course, he has the freedom to be apolitical; but even then, the right
to speak one’s mind (and in his case, one senses it really is his mind and not, unquestioningly, that
of the wider church), the right to speak one’s mind for what one believes is
right is not always exercised.  The
consistency of his message, the love with which it is delivered and received,
and the overt lack of protection for his own safety give this Pope his charm
and his appeal.  The man has genuine,
deep seated, integrity. 

His Fiat 500 presumably passed its emission tests.  The Volkswagon scandal, which seems likely to
spread to other car manufacturers, reveals one of the more extraordinary cases
of exposed cheating we have heard in recent years.  Such is the enormity of this news that,
though praised worldwide for their efficiency, reliability, and business
acumen, it seems that this scandal has hit Germany as an entire nation and not
just the car manufacturer itself.  The
truth, of course, is that this fine nation remains just that, but she has been
let down by the lack of integrity of a small handful of Volkswagon’s
leaders.  They must have known that what
they were doing was wrong; but they chose to do it anyway; and in the end, as
it always does, their dishonesty caught up with them in the most appalling way
– and I say this not just because I myself own a diesel Volkswagon car!

You have grasped the link by now, I hope.  Nowhere does the word integrity sit less
comfortably than with Sepp Blatter.  You could
argue the case for his having an extraordinary talent – the Guardian once
described him as the “most successful non-homicidal dictator of the past
century” – but as with almost all dictators, his power was built upon lies,
selfish ambition and greed.  He was
elected President of FIFA in 1998 and, like Volkswagon, it is in many respects
amazing that it is only recently that his misdemeanours have caught up with him
to such an extent that he agreed to stand down once a successor is voted

Integrity is hard earned, over a period of time, and yet
easily lost in a few moments.  Once lost,
it is even harder to regain.  Not all
people are confident; not all are outgoing; not all have special talents; not
all can have great friends and family; but all can have integrity; and we
should all learn to respect people with integrity.  As one business leader said to me recently,
once all the daily issues, arguments and decisions are stripped away, all that
is really left is your integrity – make sure you guard it.

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