As I write this entry to “The Francis Factor,” the World Meeting of Families posts on their countdown time clock that we are 12 Days, 23 Hours, and 59 Minutes away from the start of the activities in Philadelphia. The pope will leave Rome for Havana on September 19th, and presently we are in the last stages of preparation for Pope Francis’s visit.
At one of the RNA sessions in late August, Greg Erlandson of Our Sunday Visitor mentioned that with the pope’s arrival in the United States, press and media are readying a “tsunami of coverage.” For a dozen or more reasons, there is a huge build up to this visit, and mostly because of this remarkable pope who has been able to galvanize the various factions of the Catholic church and brought such attention to his own agenda.His central and controlling theme of mercy has entered into the fabric of the coverage.
In the past few days, three items have made headlines. First, his announcement that in the forthcoming “Year of Mercy” how priests would be capable of forgiving the sin of abortion, rather than considering this among the “reserved sins.” Second, the full scale redoing of the annulment process to better address the needs of divorced Catholics. This helps set the stage for the Synod on families, next month in Rome. And his pleas last Sunday, to the European and world-wide community to listen the voices of the many thousands of refugees and migrants who are at their boarders.
Clearly, the “message of mercy” is reflected in a “tsunami of coverage” and, in a way, prepares us for his historic visit. I cannot recall both the amount of pre-visit coverage for any papal visit, and more importantly how the Vatican has mastered so well the skills of “strategic communication.”
More to the point, Francis is even making comment for the smallest of his actions. For example, last week the pope (with his driver and security detail) went to the fashionable Spanish Steps area of Rome, off the Via Del Corso, to select new eyeglass frames at a optical store. Rather than have the optician come to the Vatican, the pope decided to go shopping himself.
His “virtual audience” on ABC News’s 20/20 with David Muir, saw on full display the empathy of a pope that is emotionally connected in a deep and persuasive way, when listening to the life stories of people in Los Angeles, Chicago and McAllen, Texas.
Today alone Matt Palmer of the USCCB posted over one-hundred press articles and videos for his day-to-day “clipping service.” So how does anyone keep up with the pope and the commentary that surround the upcoming visit? Very difficult to do, but let me be very selective here, and try to fill in the gaps.
NY Times reporter Laurie Goodstein provides a good overview, “Pope Francis’s Visit to the U.S. is His First Ever, for Several Reasons,” contains the right interviews and personalities, and worth reading. Here’s the link:
Today Crux (Boston Globe) published “The Ability to Capture the Hearts and Minds Make this Papacy Novel,” commentary by Michael O’Loughlin about the various fissures that make up the American Catholic Church. This piece prompts us to be more attentive to the contrary voices that parse every syllable the pope utters — in the hopes, that his words most agrees with their own point of view. Check this out:
In the pages of Washington Post, Anthony Faiola reports “Conservative Revolt is Brewing Inside the Vatican,” about the conservative response to Pope Francis and how his most recent decisions put in check his Vatican critics.
Three items in America, the Jesuit weekly are worth noting.
Father Tom Rosica (Salt+Light/Canada) provide the best one-page summary of the pope’s ideas on the “Year of Mercy” and how priests are to proceed to forgive the sin of abortion in confession.
I published a television review of the “Virtual Audience,” with Pope Francis and moderated by David Muir of ABC News.
A commentary on religion and international diplomacy by Secretary of State John Kerry, “Toward a Better Understanding of Religion & Global Affairs” caught my eye. He writes about the establishment of a new State Department Office of Religion & Global Affairs, and starts with the idea that if he were selecting a major in college, he would consider the study of comparative religion as more helpful today than even political science.
For me this is a fascinating turn around in the world of ideas that religion maintains its importance in the lives of people worldwide that world leaders, politicians and journalists must know the fine details of how social and political cultures truly operate. This is in vast contrast to the opinion of a former CBS News president, who coming from this position from that of station manager and chief TV sales officers told me many years ago that networks television news must be more like local news to gather audience and sell commercials. The idea that viewers were more interested in sports, entertainment, some politics and the news of the “lifestyle” and not news of religion.”Really,” I replied, with total amazement. What a cynical viewpoint, I said to myself. With the advents of “60 Minutes” news programs had to be “profit centers.”
Contrast this to CBS News President Richard Salant, who once said to me, “There is news that people want to know, and at times, we must give the viewer the news they ought to know.”
So many years later, in a world of wars and where there are too many examples of “man’s inhumanity to man,” John Kerry, to my mind, may be among our best public servants.
Candida Moss writes “Annulment Reform will Have a Real Impact on Those in Martial Limbo,” in Crux (Boston Globe)
The more complete details of how this annulment process will work have yet to be fully developed, however this action by the pope takes off the table for a moment how the Synod on the Families will come down on these and other matters in the October deliberations.
For the AP, Nicole Winfield writes “Pope Speeds Up, Simplifies Annulment Process for Marriage,”
Washington insider Peter Umhofer, a former student of mine, has been updating me on the Washington stories. The U.S. Congress is readying itself not only for the Fall political agenda, but also how the pope’s September visit and his speech to the Joint Session of Congress will have predictable and even unforeseen effects.
Today’s “Hawking’s Here,” column by David Hawking in Roll Call is worth reading:
Lastly, take note of my entry “Pope in Three Cities,” I have updated my preview tours of WDC, NYC & Philly as well as my coverage of Religion Newswriters Association meetings in Philadelphia, August 27-30.