Press review : Judgments on a media pontificate

Source: FSSPX News


The excessive coverage of the illness, the death and funeral of the pope by the media evoked mixed comments on a pontificate which was on the whole placed under the sign of audiovisual communication on a global scale.

Under the header "The paradoxes of a "great communicator", Marie-Claude Decamps writes in a special issue of Le Monde: "His sense of drama and of striking formula had made of John Paul II a pope"super star", especially on TV. But though omnipresent in the medias, the sovereign pontiff did not always manage to make his message dominant over the image (…) There was another side of the coin to this use of the medias, which was as studied as it was natural. For, if John Paul II manage to make known and love the "messenger"  - and here is the paradox – he did not always succeed to drive home the "message"". And she quotes the ambiguous attitude of young people who at WYD in Denver, Manila or Rome, would applaud the pope, but said they did not follow the moral teaching he was reaffirming.

In La Croix of April 9 and  10, the praise of the "modernity of the Holy See" by University professor Philippe Levillain, shows the clear-cut rupture wrought by the Polish pope, in the wake of Vatican II: "When John Paul II appeared at the loggia delle Benedizioni on October 16, 1978 the entire world was astounded. The archbishop of Cracow proclaimed "Do not be afraid" to a "shaken Church", and he put backthe ball in the center of the game, making it understood that the ground would be reclaimed in the name of a Church "expert in humanity" (Paul VI).  The most ancient institution of the contemporary world, an elected lifelong monarchy was entering the sphere of mobility and permanent actuality (through repeated intercontinental journeys), putting the rights of man and the observance of the duties imposed by the Church, as equal and no longer in hierarchical order, re-placing back Salvation in History (Repentances), establishing normality as synonymous with liberty. For instance: religious liberty, affirmed with some difficulty at Vatican II (1965), was claiming the right both to believe and the correlative right not to believe and contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989".(sic)

In Valeurs Actuelles of April 8-14, alluding to the famous "Do not be afraid", Olivier Dassault wonders: "What has changed over the past thirty years? What did John Paul II change? Are there today as many reasons to be afraid as at the dawn of his pontificate? To the communist brutality has been substituted the savagery of terrorism, which reached its climax in New York in 2001, in Madrid and Russia last year. (…) The genocides of Darfour and Rwanda following that of Cambodia showed that men are no better in spite of his messages of love and his soul-stirring pilgrimages to Auschwitz and Jerusalem. Interfaith prayers for peace in Assisi did not prevent war reappearing at the very doors of Italy, after the splitting of Yugoslavia, nor the conflicts multiplying in the Middle East. The pope did not even manage to reunite within the bosom of one only Church the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christians in spite of all his ecumenical endeavors. Intolerance, sectarianism, and violence are still wreaking havoc in the world". And he observes: "The work of John Paul II must not be measured according to diplomatic success", nor can it be judged "according to the rhythm of economical or social progress". Agreed, but is it not also written that "the tree must be judged on his fruits"?

According to Blandine Chelini-Pont of the university of Aix-Marseille, in an interview granted to Le Point of April 4, "he played on his own personal mediatization as universal priest" in order to remedy the dramatic situation of the Church. Indeed, "John Paul II had to sustain an institution internally weakened. First, even if they were 400,000 at the end of the 90’ s, there is a lack of priests. And where they are most numerous (200,000 in Europe) their number is unavoidably dwindling. In Africa, they are only 20,000, in Asia 33,000, for 90 millions Catholics in each of these two continents, this is very little. Secondly: the weakness of the structures. Many young dioceses are directly funded by the Holy See, old and rich dioceses, congregations, charitable organizations and even European states (under the name of cooperation, France has thus given much help to the Church in Haiti). But these dioceses are not firmly established. Only in Europe is a bell tower seen every 10 km.

And how did Karol Wojtyla reacted when confronted with this situation?

He managed to compensate for its deficiencies. This was his genius. He played on his own personal mediatization as universal priest. Around the principle of respect for the person, his discourse was cleverly opportunist, adapted according to the continents. He proposed a model of counter-culture in opposition to liberalism in the West. He criticized oppression and the lack of freedom in Asia. He denounced economical colonialism and corruption in South America and in Africa. But, beware, behind the scenes there is a whole machinery: 2,500 bishops who acts as prefects of regions, a well formed and very discreet diplomacy present in all the countries of the world, Muslim countries included.

What is going to happen now?

As a true politician, this pope persuaded the Catholics of their universality while they have never been so different from each other. His successor would be well inspired to follow the same path. Because the Catholic Church is in danger of implosion. (Our emphasis)