Pope John Paul II and the Media Coverage

Has the press coverage of Pope John Paul II’s passing been disrespectful or mean, as some have suggested? Having seen mostly the coverage at Fox News, which has been incredibly fawning, with all the anchors and reporters dressed in black, I haven’t noticed it. A quick scan of the mainstream press stories receiving blog commentary at Memeorandum also strikes me as quite dignified. Aside from the pundits, it is pretty much a straight reporting of events, although focusing on the outpouring of affection and the nice things being said by world leaders.

Catholic Leader’s Death Comes After Long and Public Illness (NYT)

Pope John Paul II died on Saturday night, succumbing finally to years of illness endured painfully and publicly, ending an extraordinary, if sometimes polarizing, 26-year reign that remade the papacy.


People wept and knelt on cobblestones as the news of his death spread across the square, bowing their heads to a man whose long and down-to-earth papacy was the only one that many young and middle-aged Catholics around the world remembered. For more than 10 minutes, not long after his death was announced, the crowd simply applauded him. “I have looked up to this man as a guide, and now it is like a star that has suddenly disappeared,” said Caeser Aturi, 38, a priest from Ghana, which the widely traveled pope visited in 1980, on a continent where the Roman Catholic Church grew sizably under his reign.

Pope John Paul II, Keeper of the Flock for a Quarter of a Century (NYT Editorial)

Pope John Paul II was a man who used the tools of modernity to struggle against the modern world. He traveled more than a half-million miles through 129 countries, waving to crowds from his popemobile. He wrote best sellers and took advantage of every means of communication to spread his message: a cry against what he saw as the contemporary world’s decadence, moral degradation and abandonment of human values.

All-Embracing Man of Action for a New Era of Papacy (NYT Obituary)

It was an extraordinary beginning. But almost from the start, it was evident to many of the world’s Roman Catholics, and to multitudes of non-Catholics as well, that this was to be an extraordinary papacy, one that would captivate much of humanity by sheer force of personality and reshape the church with a heroic vision of a combative, disciplined Catholicism.

It was to be the longest and most luminous pontificate of the 20th century, the second longest in the history of the church, a 26-year era that would witness sweeping political changes around the world, the growth of the Roman Catholic Church to more than a billion baptized members from 750 million, and the beginning of Christianity’s Third Millennium.

The man who would call himself John Paul II was not the traditional papal figure, compassionate and loving but ascetic and remote behind the high walls and the elaborate ceremony of the Vatican. Here was a different kind of pope: complex, schooled in confrontation, theologically intransigent but deftly politic, full of wit and daring, energy and physically expressive love.

Holy Land mourns Pope (Jerusalem Post)

About 150 worshipers, most of them Palestinians, joined by a few pilgrims, gathered at the Church of the Nativity in Jesus’ birthplace, the West Bank town of Bethlehem, to celebrate special masses. According to AFP, other services were held throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories including in Nazareth where flags were flown at half-mast.

Speaking at a service in Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the Vatican’s senior representative in the Holy Land, told hundreds of participants that John Paul’s desire for inter-faith reconciliation had been one of the major themes of his papacy. “We in the Holy Land remember him as a pontiff who raised his voice repeatedly for justice and peace,” said Sabbah who is himself Palestinian.

After 26-year reign, pontiff dies at 84

Pope John Paul II was remembered Saturday as a “champion of human freedom,” a “tireless advocate of peace” and a man with a “wonderful sense of humor” who was easy to talk to.

Pope John Paul II Dies at 84 (AP – YahooNews, CNN)

Pope John Paul II, who helped topple communism in Europe and left a deeply conservative stamp on the church that he led for 26 years, died Saturday night in his Vatican apartment, ending a long public struggle against debilitating illness. He was 84.

World mourns as pope̢۪s body lies in state (MSNBC)

As Pope John Paul II̢۪s body lay in state at the Vatican on Sunday, millions of Catholics around the world mourned his passing and the Vatican prepared to begin the ritual-steeped process of choosing his successor. Vatican television gave the world its first glimpse of the late pontiff since his last public appearance Wednesday, his body dressed in crimson vestments, his head covered with a white bishop̢۪s miter.

This all strikes me as quite straightforward coverage and, indeed, more generous than I might have expected from a predominately secular, socially liberal press.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jim Henley says:

    What do Bainbridge and Malkin have to say about certain disrespectful, mean OTB items? 😉

  2. Anderson says:

    The Today Show has been similarly positive; they even had the good taste not to send Katie Couric to the Vatican.

  3. lefty says:

    Why should anyone give a rat’s ass about a guy who looked away (or particpated, who knows) from the priests humping boys but who was opposed to condoms? What a butthead.