February 11, 2013

Benedict Moves On: The Pope Without a Face

Pope Benedict gust of wind

If advanced age is the manifest reason, two things doomed this Pope, especially how those factors “intertwined.”

From the get-go, this cold and severe man was unable to connect with the camera or the broader public, perhaps a more fatal liability in this media and telegenic era. (And, it didn’t help as the follow-up act to Pope John Paul II, who could move you thusly). Add in the stonewalling and denial surrounding the Church’s sexual abuse scandals and the visual media just picked Benedict’s bones.

I posted the following two pictures and the text in between back on March 30, 2010:

Pope Benedict Palm Sunday

Why has this photo been in so many media galleries over the past few days?

Taking editorial matters into its own hands, the visual media suggests Benedict can’t look the public in the eye and can’t hide behind Palm Sunday when it comes to the Vatican’s sexual abuse cover up.

Update 3/31/10. More extreme variation on same theme:

Pope Benedict El Espectador

The photo leading the post, from a routine public audience in St. Peter’s Square in 2012, also didn’t just fly up out of nowhere. It circulated with the news of a Vatican leak scandal involving the Pope’s former butler. Still, it was not at all a surprise to see visual pot shots of Christ’s lead ambassador in photo galleries at different times.

You don’t have to be as charismatic and attractive as Barack Obama or Aung San Suu Kyi to lend more credit and attention to your mission or institution. At the same time, in taking himself off the stage, I imagine that Benedict is relieved and the Vatican (if not publicly) is also relieved.

(photo  1 & 2: Franco Origlia/Getty Images. caption 1: A gust of wind blows Pope Benedict XVI’s cloak into his face as he attends his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square on September 26, 2012 in Vatican City, Vatican. The opening of the trial of pope’s former butler Paolo Gabriele, accused of passing private documents from Benedict XVI to journalists, will start next saturday September 29. caption 2: Pope Benedict XVI attends Palm Sunday Mass on March 28, 2010 in Vatican City, Vatican. The Pope is now facing pressure over abuse allegations which involved the German, the American and the Irish Catholic Church.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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