Media Watch

N.Y. Times Ambivalent on Jubilee Marketing

THE NEW YORK TIMES, Jan. 8 — A widespread misconception of the Vatican — that it's bursting with riches — was recently undermined in the pages of the New York daily.

In an article highlighting the Vatican's success at harmonizing technological and marketing know-how during Jubilee 2000, the Times conceded that for many years prior to a 1990 financial reorganization, the Church was cash-strapped.

Eager to seize on the perceived hypocrisy of a financial turnaround, the article went on to note that through a new licensing agreement the Vatican now keeps itself in the black by selling objects as varied as ceremonial baby clothes to gold-leaf reproductions of Ptolemy's celestial charts.

Buried in this story on what the Times refers to as the Church's new money-making “strategy” was the fact that all proceeds from Jubilee-related products such as Internet stations, satellite hookups, corporate sponsor logos and Jubilee souvenirs, went to charity.

“The marketing was so successful,” the Times said, “that when Pope John Paul II formally ended the Holy Year by closing the Holy Door to St. Peter's, he announced that profits earned by the Jubilee organizing committee would be donated to charity.”

“It is important that such an important religious event be completely dissociated from any semblance of financial gain,” the Pope said. (See full story, this page)

Italian Exorcists Busy During Holy Year

MAXIM, Jan. 8 — Half a million Italians — out of a total of 57 million — sought an exorcist's help to expel evil spirits during the Holy Year, a poll by the Italian monthly magazine found.

In an accompanying article, Maxim editors noted that while genuine possessions made up only 1% of the reported cases, three Italians out of four believe that the devil is at work in such cases.

The magazine polled 896 people between the ages of 20 and 65. Sixty-five percent of the respondents were women and 20% minors. The Vatican officially recognizes 400 exorcists in Italy, Maxim said.

Though Christ gave his apostles authority to perform exorcisms, no specific formula for the rite was promulgated until the end of the fourth century. As early as 251, during the pontificate of Pope Cornelius, the minor order of exorcist was established.

An exorcist's manual of 1614 is soon to be translated into Italian by the Vatican after a 1999 revision took into account developments in psychiatry.

Unlike the seven sacraments, which bring about the grace they signify, exorcism is a sacramental, meaning it does not infallibly produce its intended effect.

French Artist Has Privileged View of Vatican

ASSOCIATED PRESS, Jan. 6 — For many, gaining access to the Vatican is a long process, requiring patience and tenacity. But for Parisian painter Noelle Herrenschmidt, closeness to the Pope was won with a sketchpad, the news service reported.

Herrenschmidt has documented the Vatican's inner workings through her craft for two years, concluding her tour of duty soon after Pope John Paul II closed the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica Jan. 6. Herrenschmidt said she doesn't know if the Pope has seen her work.

“I think I will give to the Pope the last drawing,” Herrenschmidt told AP as she headed to the Holy Door to sketch the last thousands of faithful waiting to pass through. “It is for him; it's not a historical drawing.”

So far Herrenschmidt has published two volumes of inside-the-Vatican watercolors, including one dedicated to the Holy Year

According to AP, It took a year of knocking on doors before Herrenschmidt, 60, gained her extraordinary access. She was first allowed inside in 1998 for the 20th anniversary of John Paul's pontificate.

“Every day I ask, ‘May I go on?’ and they say I can,” she said.

Persistent, but polite, as soon as Herrenschmidt finishes sketching a cardinal, she shows him the drawing, then delivers a color photocopy. Herrenschmidt said she has been invited to the Pope's private Masses in his chapel in early morning but was not allowed to sketch. She recreated the scene later from memory.

“I couldn't draw but I could see this holy man, very, very strong when he prayed.”