Press Distorts Papal Trip Before It Begins

(photo: Reuters Photo)

On the eve of Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to his homeland, he’s unable to find any friendly press. The worldwide media is eager to seize on any tension to undermine the trip before it has even begun.

Let’s take a tour around the world, to see how the Pope’s trip is being reported, or should that be distorted? Here’s a look at the pre-trip headlines.

From Radio Netherlands, it’s one part joy, two parts negativity as: “Joy, protests and apathy await pope in native Germany.”

Al Jazeera says that the Pope faces an “uncertain welcome.”

Canada’s National Post says that the trip will be “fraught with divisiveness.”

The U.K.’s Guardian is highlighting the Bundestag boycott of the Pope.

It was difficult finding anything hopeful about the trip from the American press.

The Associated Press and CBS say the Pope is “visiting homeland with mixed views on church.

Reuters described it as his “toughest visit yet to skeptical German homeland.”

The Wall Street Journal says the visit comes “amid turmoil,” and the New York Times reports the trip not as a pastoral visit, but as a boxing match between the Holy Father and “a Combative Germany.”

MSNBC’s headline focuses on the protests that are expected, and USA Today, while at least avoiding the party line in their headline, says in the story’s first line that there will be “large protests, and even larger crowds of Catholic faithful.” At least they made that distinction. One is almost led to think from all of the stories that the only folks greeting the Pope will be those who are either protesting or boycotting his appearance.

Perhaps the most egregious example of bias is from AFP, who just couldn’t resist using the words “Pope” and “Hitler” in the same headline, “Pope to Hold Mass in Berlin’s ‘Hitler’s Stadium.” Clearly, we’re supposed to think, “The Pope who was a member of the Nazi youth is celebrating the Mass in Hitler’s Stadium. OH, the outrage. The outrage!” You can be sure that when U2 or The Rolling Stones played there, AFP didn’t use the title: U2 Holds Concert in Hitler’s Stadium.

Even the press in his homeland isn’t welcoming. Der Spiegel’s lengthy piece, “Disillusioned German Catholics: The Pope’s Difficult Visit to His Homeland,” focuses on the protesters and boycotters. Bundestag member, Alexander Süssmair of the far-left Left Party, says that he “cannot even imagine what the democratic Federal Republic of Germany could learn from the representative of an absolute monarchy.”

So begins the news coverage prior to the Pope’s trip. I don’t have a problem with journalists reporting facts, but when they’re reporting (or rather predicting) facts before anything has even happened, I do take issue with the reporting. Isn’t it interesting how you can have so many seemingly diverse publications all singing the same note?

When the Holy Father visited the U.S. in 2008, he was described as “The Pope of Hope.” May he bring some of that same hope to his kinsmen and women back home in Germany.