“To Show Concern”: Early Coverage of John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis in the American National News Media
Portraits and video coverage of the pope are familiar and standardized, strongly centered on religious events. Popes are pictured giving blessings, celebrating mass, and offering wisdom; popes are seldom presented to the public as taking selfies, addressing governments, or identifying themselves as the servants of “others.” Pope Francis, however, has firmly and consistently rejected this dichotomizing of the religious and the secular. Instead, he has fulfilled his own call “to show concern for the building of a better world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 150) through his continuing outreach, whether in Saint Peter’s Square or traveling throughout the world. Moreover, Francis has deliberately amplified his message by facilitating a visual record of his actions for delivery through print, broadcast, and electronic media. But how does coverage of Francis compare with that accorded his two immediate predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI? More specifically, what do front-page articles and photographs reveal about these popes? About the papacy?