A session with John and Jesus

TORONTO — Pope Benedict XVI’s April visit to the U.S. generally received high ratings from both church officials and the secular media, which gave the short trip unprecedented coverage. How sustained would the pope’s good press have been had he stayed on in the U.S. and not returned to the Vatican? That was the question CNS veteran Rome bureau chief John Thavis posed at a workshop on media coverage of the pope held during the recent Catholic Media Convention in Toronto.

Thavis — whom co-presenter Jesus Colina of Zenit described as “like the Old Testament, he’s always there” covering the pope — suggested that, much like coverage of the pope in the Italian press, U.S. media coverage would soon dwindle to the point of insignificance until the pope did something the media could construe as sensational. Thavis conceded that the pope’s core message — the place of God and religion in one’s daily life as a source of meaning — doesn’t offer the secular media many news hooks. And even important speeches the pope gives such as his address to the U.N. draw scant coverage because the pope speaks in terms of general principles and not specific issues.

That’s why Pope Benedict is a pope made for the Catholic press, Thavis said. “We do make room for his thoughts and reflections day in and day out. We are the ones paying attention. We also have staying power. It’s not a five-day trip for us. We’re the ones prepared to tell his story.”

The workshop was well received by a room packed with journalists, and Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, head of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, quipped, “I always wanted to be with John and Jesus.”

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