The world’s media did a bit of a double take when Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would be renouncing St Peter’s throne on February 28. In Polish newspapers it was headline news, wiping the nation’s EU budget deal and just about every other story from the front page.
Here’s how just some of the papers in Poland continued their coverage (and how readers reacted), when the dust began to settle a day after the announcement.
Gazeta Wyborcza looked at the Italian media, taking as its lead the report by Il Sole-24 that the Pope had undergone secret heart surgery.
The newspaper drew heavily on the Italian media, which speculated that the decision to quit in the face of ill health was ‘a manifestation of the highest sense of responsibility’ or ‘a sign of internal political weakness’ (curiously, both views represented in Corriere della Sera).
Wyborcza also notes that ‘For Catholics, any official statements by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger on doctrine and morality will no longer have the attribute of infallibility’. In fact, the newspaper adds that no important decisions relating to the governance of the Vatican will be taken until a new Pope is elected at Easter, as most officials will have been dismissed.
Looking east rather than south, Gazeta Prawna found that the Russian media had very mixed feelings about Benedict XVI.
It reported Kommersant’s assertion that ‘the pontificate of Benedict XVI was littered with scandals, with which the pope could not cope’.
Gazeta Prawna, however, found Rossiyskaya to be more sympathetic, reporting that the newspaper reflected on the ‘courage, responsibility and courage of the Pope’.
Amongst GP’s most interesting findings was a report in Nezavisimaya, which pointed out that a Pope cannot in fact abdicate at all. Linguistically this is true, but it all amounts to the same thing.
Jarosław Makowski, for Rzeczpospolita, wrote that Benedict XVI’s reign had been one of transition.
Makowski wrote: “He was the closest collaborator of John Paul II. His election marked the de facto continuation of the rule that the Church offered the Polish pope. In this sense, the rule of Benedict was typical of a ‘transitional pontificate’… and his decision to abdicate confirms it.”
So who next?
Most of the Polish press speculated on the prospect of an African or South American Pope. After all, white European Catholics are a minority in the Church. The tabloid Fakt appeared particularly worried by a prediction by Nostradamus that a black Pope would herald the end of the world. The editors there were particularly preoccupied with the fact that Benedict XVI’s coat of arms includes the head of a black man (pictured above) – suggesting that, should the next Pope be Italian, there will be no need to buy a new diary.
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