Me­dia in­ter­est rises in the Pope

The Church of England - - ENGLAND -

The re­tire­ment of the Pope is a big story. But for the tabloid red-top news­pa­pers one might have thought slightly less so, leav­ing the way open for the broad­sheets to go to town. The day af­ter Bene­dict XVI an­nounced he was quit­ting due to ill health The Sun led with Paul Gas­coigne’s al­co­hol prob­lems and the Pope only mer­ited a small box at the top of the front page un­der the head­lines ‘Dun Ro­man’ and ‘Auf Wieder­se­hen, Pope’. The Daily Star had no men­tion on its front page at all, de­vot­ing most of it to a young lady in a bikini from TV’s Celebrity Big Brother. But then the Daily Mail did not think this was a front-page story ei­ther.

So it came as some­thing of a sur­prise to see the Daily Mir­ror not just hand over the whole of the front page to the Pope, but pages 2,3,4,5,6 and 7, too. Three two-page spreads is nor­mally the kind of cov­er­age re­served for a cat­a­strophic event like 9/11, a pres­i­den­tial as­sas­si­na­tion or an in­tercon­ti­nen­tal tsunami. The ex­pla­na­tion is likely to be the ed­i­to­rial de­ci­sion that as the Mir­ror has a lot of Catholic read­ers in their north-west heart­lands that was the story they would most want to read.

The leader col­umn ac­cepted that the event may turn out to be just “a foot­note in his­tory”. But the pa­per praised the Pope for em­brac­ing mod­ern com­mu­ni­ca­tions, es­pe­cially Twit­ter. And it added: “He has put the needs of Catholics ahead of the tra­di­tion that he stays in of­fice un­til he dies.”

But thanks to the success of Dan Brown’s nov­els, the word Vat­i­can is now in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked with con­spir­acy the­o­ries, and on Day Two of the story the Daily Mir­ror was spec­u­lat­ing on a few of them; “shock­ing” new rev­e­la­tions from the money laun­der­ing scan­dal; Parkin­son’s disease; a new pae­dophile scan­dal. Even Ro­man Catholic and former Tor y MP Louise Men­sch ten­ta­tively voiced sus­pi­cions in The Sun. “Pope Bene­dict has said he

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