Did you follow in the press or media any of the Holy Father’s visit to his homeland of Germany last weekend?
I didn’t think so. Neither did I. Because, as a matter of fact, there was hardly any coverage at all.
(I’m talking, of course, about the “secular” press; Catholic TV, radio, and press did a grand job of reporting it.)
There was, however, quite a bit of attention given to Pope Benedict’s visit before the trip last weekend. That coverage predicted a disaster: protests against him, boycotting the visit, a walkout by politicians when he addressed Bundestag, a petition demanding radical change in the Church that was supposed to garner widespread support, and so on. The only optimistic reports before the trip was that it would be a big flop.
Of course, none of this happened. If you have been fortunate enough to find a report on what actually happened those glorious four days in the Pope’s homeland, you know that the protests were fizzles, the crowds large, reverent, receptive, and welcoming, the address at the Bundestag a hit — with a standing ovation led by the Greens, who were supposed to be walking out on him — the petition a failure.
The naysayers were wrong. So, the media here at home ignored the trip when it turned far more successful than even the most ardent fan of Pope Benedict could have hoped.
At least Des Spiegel had the guts to report it. They were the leading forecasters of doom before the trip, but they had to admit that the Pope was warmly received, and that his message was thoughtful, substantial, and timely.
By now we should be used to it, I suppose. The narrative seems pre-written: the Pope is out of touch; his people resent him; he’ll chide and castigate; he won’t listen; he’ll talk about celibacy, no-to-women’s ordination, condoms, abortion, sexual license, and birth control, and leave a dispirited Church behind.
None of this happened, of course. So, the story is ignored.
The Pope is a winner in clear, substantive teaching, challenging without cajoling; in reaching out to other Christians, the Jewish community, and Islam; attentive to academics; sparkling with the young; uplifting with politicians; sensitive in meeting with victims of clergy sexual abuse; and winsome in his humble, shy, demeanor.
He has just done it in Germany, as he did a year ago in England.
Six weeks ago I was in Madrid for World Youth Day. There was Benedict XVI again, this time with 1.5 million young people, from all over the world, who prayed with him, sang with him, listened to him attentively, and cheered him affectionately.
When I got home to review the coverage here in America, I was not surprised to see this huge event pretty much ignored. One of the few articles I did see gave as much ink to the thirty-seven protestors (I counted them) as they did the nearly two-million young pilgrims.
The real news is that an eighty-four year old man, shy and cerebral by nature, can capture the heart of a nation that describes itself as anti-Church and nearly agnostic, with profound words about God, prayer, the Church, virtue, religious freedom, a civilization of love and a culture of life, a nation whose movers and shakers had told him to stay home because he wasn’t welcome.
But, don’t expect to see much of that story.
Tags: Pope Benedict XVI