(Vatican Radio) As Pope Francis prepares for the final day of pastoral visit to the Philippines on Sunday, our correspondent in Manila and head of Vatican Radio’s English Section, Sean-Patrick Lovett, looks at the way the local papers are covering the papal visit…
On Day Two of the papal visit here, the picture that said it all for me was the one of Pope Francis surrounded by a gaggle of street children beneath the name of the newspaper: “The Philippine Star” (get it?).
Francis fever is at such a pitch, journalists are falling over one another to get their stories out. There are seven top stories on the front page of Manila’s leading daily paper today, and all of them are Francis-related. Not that the other two principal dailies are very different. Two of them, in fact, have almost exactly the same headline, both referring to the Pope’s call to “reject corruption”. The third carries the same story on its front page but its headline is taken from the Pope’s off-the-cuff remarks to Families yesterday: “Don’t lose the ability to dream – or you lose the capacity to love”.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer also highlights the Pope’s un-programmed visit to street children in an article it entitles: “Pontiff surprises (again), hugs street kids and old nuns”. The newspaper appears to be particularly child-friendly insofar as it includes a full-page spread on the group of schoolchildren dressed as little Swiss Guards and chosen to welcome the Pope to Manila Cathedral. The same paper is also fascinated by the security around the Pope (as is most media) and dedicates a half-page feature to the Pope’s un-bullet-proof car. Most interestingly, though, are the articles on what it calls the “Second Front Page”, dedicated to financial stories. “Pope’s visit good for business” and “Brand Pope sells” offer an alternative glimpse at the more commercial side of the papal presence in the Philippines. According to local traders, people here will buy “anything with the Pope’s face on it”. Marketing strategists say that’s because he gives “100% benefits in terms of credibility and integrity” and exerts an almost “hypnotic effect” on consumers.
The Manila Bulletin prefers to tell the story in pictures and provides a full fold-out colour supplement with the pick of the pics. The same tabloid examines the President’s welcome speech to the Pope with this rather heavy-handed headline: “Aquino blasts Church leaders’ silence on wrongdoings; Vatican taken aback”. For the record, the “wrongdoings” refer to the previous government of the country, and blasting Church leaders in the Philippines is nothing new. Church and State have been at logger-heads for a while now over the passage of a reproductive health care law. Bishops opposed the law from the start because it promotes contraception and sex education in schools. And, by the way, the Vatican was hardly “taken aback”. Press Office Director, Fr Federico Lombardi, simply described the President’s speech as “original” and “interesting”…
But my favourite story in the press today is the one relating Pope Francis’ private meeting in the Nunciature with a group of fellow Jesuits – 40 of them, to be exact. During the informal encounter, the Filipino Jesuits jokingly told the Pope: “You were greeted in Sri Lanka by 40 elephants. Now you have 40 Jesuits”. And Pope Francis joked back: “Yes. But the elephants were better dressed”.
In Manila with the Pope – I’m Seàn-Patrick Lovett