Friday, March 20, 2009

B16 in Africa

A regular reader of this blog asked for my thoughts on the visit this week of Pope Benedict XVI to Africa.

I'm sorry to say that my annual spring cold/allergy thing has kept me from following the "Apostolic Journey to Cameroon and Angola" as closely as I would like.

But, the National Catholic Reporter's John Allen -- one of the best journalists on any beat -- today provided a report called "Benedict in Cameroon, a Tale of Two Trips." It should be required reading for anyone interested in commenting on the visit.

Some key graphs:

... I don't think I've ever covered a papal trip where the gap between internal and external perceptions has been as vast as over these three days.

It's almost as if the pope has made two separate visits to Cameroon: the one reported internationally and the one Africans actually experienced.

In the U.S. and many other parts of the world, coverage has been "all condoms, all the time," triggered by comments from Benedict aboard the papal plane to the effect that condoms aren't the right way to fight AIDS. In Africa, meanwhile, the trip has been a hit, beginning with Benedict's dramatic insistence that Christians must never be silent in the face of "corruption and abuses of power," and extending through a remarkable meeting with African Muslims in which the pope said more clearly and succinctly what he wanted to say three years ago in his infamous Regensburg address, and without the gratuitous quotation from a Byzantine emperor.

This is just a snip. The whole thing is worth reading.

The image above comes via the Boston Globe. It is attributed to Finbarr O'Reilly of Reuters. Caption: "A nun was among throngs greeting Pope Benedict XVI as he arrived in Yaounde, Cameroon, yesterday. He'll also visit Angola."

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