Emotions in media giants

Paulina Drapala

While the television stations in Poland announced long before the funeral of the Holy Father that they had changed their scheduled programmes, most television screens on the other side of the Atlantic returned to the regular programmes on Monday, with reports from their correspondents in Rome and the Vatican in the news. Well - till the day of the funeral - back to normal although not quite because there was not 'so much' of the Pope in the United States before.

'Much' of the Pope

The death of Pope John Paul II touched us all, regardless of place, denomination and nationality. Evidently, it did not only shake the emotional sphere of American programmes but also their schedules. This fact is worth stressing because the United States of America is the country in which, in spite of the great number of Catholics (25 % of the population, i.e. over 62 million), newspapers and television stations never favoured believers; on the contrary, they avoided deep religious motifs since the most important thing has always been journalists' objectivity. However, the barrier was broken down. After his death John Paul II crashed firm journalist rules and habits and he made the American newspapers not only report day after day on his succession or guests coming for the funeral but also on human emotions, prayer and solidarity and unity in hardships, which the Holy Father always fought for. The audiovisual media - American television channels - devoted special long programmes to John Paul II, commencing on that memorable Saturday. And the foreign correspondents, residing in the Vatican for a long time, commented on the events as if they were saying goodbye to the Pope; they recollected journalists' audiences and witnessed that it was also difficult to them to believe that such an outstanding man had passed away.

Emotions prevailed

The day before the Pope's funeral, Anderson Cooper, author and speaker of one of the most popular CNN prime time programmes, summarized this extraordinary, journalistic and spiritual experience in his incredible and uniquely personal Reporters Notebook: 'It seemed to me that I was going to Rome to report on the Pope's death but this story has something more. This week has not been about death at all. It has been about life, the life of this extraordinary man, the life of the living Church and the lives of the people who showed during this week that faith has been very alive in their hearts'. Another proof of truly emotional commentaries on the events and the unbelievably emotional attitude was an almost complete 'release' of journalists' language, in which they used the phrase 'Holy Father' instead of 'the Pope' or 'the leader of the Church'. In his Reporters Notebook Cooper added, 'Working on such an event one finds it very difficult not to have a personal attitude. Emotions, passion - all of that surrounded you, pierced the focus of your camera and penetrated you personally.'

Millions in front of television screens

The end of the journey, the last Pilgrimage, great goodbye - such headlines and commentaries appeared in most newspapers and television reports on one of the greatest spiritual, religious and media events in the history of television. All American television networks and cable channels had life broadcast of the funeral of the Holy Father in the Vatican. Despite the fact that the ceremony began at 4.00 a.m., all reporters in Rome were fully prepared and satisfied that millions watched their reports, which was extremely important. But one should admit that CNN, FOX NEWS or MSNBC were better than networks, which had decisively too many commentaries of their correspondents and reporters as far as these deeply spiritual events were concerned.

PAPA of 'the Media'

He was and still is the Holy Father of the media. And mass media love emotions. The Pope loved them, too. Now we can only expect, or hope at least, that both American giants and other global television networks, will remember him - if not physically strong, that he was absolutely strong in the mind because as he himself answered the question concerning his health and ability to lead the Church: 'But I am not running the Church with my legs'. And the very fact that his statement was noticed, emphasized and repeated by the greatest global media tigers is only a reason to rejoice.

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl