U.S. President George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair often saw eye to eye politically. Are they about to see eye to eye religiously?
Just heard an interesting idea from Delia Gallagher, a Vatican analyst for CNN, who said that Pope John Paul was the pope of the television age but Pope Benedict is the pope of the Internet age. John Paul was good for the dramatic gesture and sound bite, which was just right for television, while Benedict speaks in lectures you should really read from start to finish. Thanks to the Internet, you can do this and more — something that was just not possible when John Paul was globe-trotting around.
When he speaks in public, Pope Benedict is more seminar than soundbite. He often speaks as if only philosophers and theologians are listening, but he can deliver quite simple and clear homilies. Having covered him since his election in 2005, I’m very curious to see how he comes across in such a soundbite culture as the United States. We’ve just issued what might be called a short guide to deciphering the different ways he communicates.
The Magdi Allam baptism and debate about Catholic-Muslim relations in its aftermath continue to make waves. Here are a few interesting points that have come up in recent days:
In his latest video, Osama bin Laden charges that the reprinting of a Danish caricature of the Prophet Mohammad amounts to a new crusade against Islam led by Pope Benedict. Complaints about the reprinting of the cartoon, sparked by death threats against the artist who depicted Mohammad with a bomb in his turban, have been spreading in the Muslim world. This seems to be the first time, however, that the pope has been linked like this to the cartoons. We have the news story and a security analysis. This post is simply to point out this curious twist, given the fact that the Vatican’s top official for relations with Islam was recently in Egypt and issued a joint declaration with al-Azhar University denouncing media attacks on religion.
As readers of this blog will have noticed, I posted a note yesterday about calls by Italian intellectuals for Pope Benedict to break his supposed silence over Tibet. On Wednesday he did so at his weekly general audience, making a carefully worded appeal (here in Italian) for an end to the suffering of the people there.
Arab Media and Society has published an English translation of the Arab League’s Satellite Broadcasting Charter approved by Arab governments at a meeting in Cairo in February, along with contrasting opinions of the charter widely criticised by advocates of media freedom. In essence, the charter incorporates restrictions which most Arab governments already apply to their own terrestrial broadcasters and to satellite broadcasters which operate from their territory. But the governments have tended to give the satellite broadcasters a little more freedom than they allow terrestrial broadcasters, most of which are state-owned.
The uproar over Archbishop Rowan Williams and sharia law brings up a question we’ve asked before with Pope Benedict — are we too addicted to soundbites to discuss complex religious issues in public? Both have tackled difficult issues in nuanced speeches, only to see — rightly or wrongly — that what they thought was their message did not come across.
Readers of this blog will have noticed my interest in the changes creeping into L’Osservatore Romano, the daily newspaper of an institution that, as the saying goes, “thinks in centuries.” Under its new editor Giovanni Maria Vian, the Vatican broadsheet has been slowly making up for a delay of decades in terms of its presentation and content. It’s still far from your usual morning newspaper and never will be like it. But “the pope’s paper” did make a cautious switch to colour photos at the weekend, bringing it — in newspaper layout terms — into the late 20th century. By contrast, the articles are more fresh and timely and varied than ever before.
The far-right politician Geert Wilders, whose planned anti-Koran film has the Netherlands holding its breath, has revealed that his long-awaited opus will be delayed by two months. There had been speculation he might show it in his party’s broadcasting slot on Dutch television on Friday evening. Viewers instead got shots of Wilders walking along a beach repeating his complaints about Muslims (shown a few minutes into this Dutch TV interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali). For more on his views, he’s here and here spelling them out in English.