Monday, 20 September 2010

Post-Pope Monday papers (1) The Guardian

Although the Sunday papers yesterday did wrap-ups, today's papers have the advantage of being able to report on the Newman Beatification, the address to bishops at Oscott College, and the send-off by the prime minister, David Cameron, to weigh in the balance of their assessments of the trip overall.

The Guardian, voice of the liberal left, consigns yesterday's events to p.14, but dedicates a two-page spread. The paper's former religious correspondent, Stephen Bates, describes  Cofton Park as a "Catholic Glastonbury", recording the excitement of the damp pilgrims, while Riazat Butt, the paper's current correspondent, gives an overview of the Catholic gatherings throughout the trip. "The real success story of this historic trip was not Benedict XVI but his flock, who defied expectation and adverse publicity to welcome the Pope to Britain, and in so doing raise their own morale." She says there is a "consensus about turnout" which agrees that 250,000 attended the events with around 90,000 on the streets. But the police estimates of the "spontaneous" turnout on the streets put Edinburgh's Princes Street at 125,000 and Whitehall before the Hyde Park vigil at 200,000; Butt's "consensus" must have been reached in the Guardian's editorial offices.

John Hooper, the Guardian's Rome correspondent, reports on the Cameron meeting with the Pope at Birmingham airport, but rather more interestingly describes in a box what it is like as a VAMP -- the Vatican-accredited journalists who are "embedded" with the papal entourage on his trips. It is a place where, as he puts it, "serene pontifical spirituality bumps up against the frenzy of journalism".

In the paper's Comment section, a leader reminds readers why the Guardian supported the visit "despite Benedict XVI's unbending and sometimes cruel conservatism" - -because there was some serious diplomatic business to do. The editorial doesn't think the Pope overcame the religious-secular divide, but has some critical words for the protesters, who "may not see any connection between themselves and the anti-papist mobs of the past, but there is a failure to afford faith the sincere respect it is due".

In 'Open Door' the papers "readers' editor" - -who represents readers' views in the paper -- reports on some harsh criticism for the Guardian from many of its readers on its coverage of the trip. And he quotes an unnamed member of the Guardian's staff journalists who criticise the paper's "instinctive hostility to religion" and its "pompous, self-satisfied triumphalism" which underpins the paper's failure to recognise the growing place of faith in the world. Elliott defends the paper by pointing out the extensive coverage the Guardian has given to the trip.