Wednesday, April 06, 2005

John Paul II, the media and the internet

On my way back from Cornwall, I was asked by BBC Radio WM (West Midlands) if I would speak about the Pope's death and the process for electing his successor. I know very little about this, and made clear that I was not an expert, but they were keen to have my opinion anyway. Unfortunately, I was in a petrol station at the time and was unable to speak on the mobile and cut the phone-call short, asking them to get back in touch by email or voice-mail message to confirm. They did not get back in touch and I assumed that happily they had found someone else. To my horror the next day (Monday), it turned out that they had not found anyone else and were assuming that I would be taking the call to speak live on air on this topic on their breakfast programme; the truncated phone-call at the petrol station had apparently secured the deal as far as they were concerned. But with my phone switched off, they were unable to contact me and left several messages wondering where I was, attempting to reschedule and so on. An extraordinary business, and I asked our (U of B) press office to contact them to explain / complain about this, but I've heard nothing back. I'm afraid that it is one of the downsides of being generally helpful and friendly to the media that they can, on occasion, be quite unreasonably demanding. Sadly, it is one of the things that puts off some academics from being involved at all with the media.

On a different note, I was struck by this article in the Washington Post on John Paul II and the internet, noting how he spanned the beginnings of the "global village" in 1978, to the internet boom years later. And there's some NT stuff thrown in here:

John Paul II: The Message Matters Most
By Robert MacMillan
. . . . Several news sources made the observation that this use of e-mail and SMS marked a drastic shift from the centuries-old tradition of signaling the death of a pope by closing windows and shutters and closing a bronze door. But in reality, it was one more example of how this church has always used the best means of communication available.

Think back to the New Testament, much of which is composed of letters written by Paul to many of the nations of the Roman world. In epistles to the Galatians, the Colossians, the Corinthians and others, Paul spread the word of the Church across the Mediterranean.

When Paul lived, he was attempting to make his message resound among people who were not always eager to hear about salvation from what they considered an upstart religion with little credence. When Christians numbered but few, he crisscrossed the sea and traveled overland, as did his messages. They traveled slowly, but they reached eager ears. On the strength of this constant proselytizing, a powerful religion was born. This tradition continued, by means both fair and foul, through missionaries who recognized the same value in the delivery of the message.

John Paul II inherited a church in a vastly different stage of development. The Catholic church no longer has to prove its might and influence. It has reached to nearly every country in the world and can claim at least a few adherents almost everywhere you go . . . .

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