By Megan Rilkoff
For the first time in 600 years, a pope is resigning from his high Vatican position. Blaming ill health, Pope Benedict XVI announced on the morning of Monday, February 11, that he can no longer fulfill the demanding duties of Pope. Both Al Jazeera and NPR released audio clips about the Pope’s surprise resignation but tackled this truly unprecedented story in different ways.
Al Jazeera stresses the surprise, even of Benedict’s closest advisors, of the Pope’s decision to step down as the Catholic leader. Federico Lombardi, a spokesman for the Vatican, admits that the Church is bewildered and even incredulous. The report also stresses the Pope’s physical health, not mental health or a specific illness, as being the reason for the resignation. One priest claims he is as mentally capable as ever, but it is his physical strength that is in question. The papal conclave that will choose the new pope will not have to regard the typical mourning period for the death of a pope and may instate a new Pope by the end of March in time for Easter. As for Benedict, he will move to a nearby monastery out of the public eye. In typical style, Al Jazeera sticks to the facts in its reporting, ignoring speculation about the effects of this decision.
NPR released an interview with Josephine McKenna, a journalist in Rome, to learn more about the reaction and effects of Benedict’s resignation, something not seen in the Catholic Church since 1415 with Pope Gregory XII. Josephine also stresses the surprise of the Church and world at this decision and the Pope’s reasons of physical strength as why he can no longer fulfill his role. Josephine stresses once again that the Church has been caught completely off guard and it will be interesting to see how they approach this issue over the next few weeks. From here conversation takes a different turn from AL Jazeera’s straightforward approach. NPR hypothesizes the future effects of the situation. Josephine believes the Church may elect an American pope or even one from the third world as Catholics there are on the increase, although most of the cardinals appointed by Benedict have been Italian. She also believes the Church will look for a Pope who will bring together the Catholic community, as Benedict himself was a divisive figure who took strong stances against abortion, divorce and contraception.
Al Jazeera approaches this story tactfully and in a straightforward manner, using facts and quotes. NPR addresses the questions many people have been wondering and talking about in light of this surprise and development in the Catholic Church, speculating about the future Pope and the effects on the Church over the next few weeks. It will be interesting to see how these two sources continue to cover this developing story.