Hyping

hypeThe news out of China is that the Pope has angered the Communist government by publicly inviting bishops from China after inviting a bishop from Taiwan. Sounds like a spat one sees in a Hollywood chick flick, but it’s more serious than that. In what is a complicated series of diplomatic events, I believe some of the mainstream media covering the issue may have exaggerated events just a tad.

It’s all gloom and doom in the International Herald Tribune:

In a setback for Pope Benedict XVI’s efforts to improve its official ties with China, the authorities in Beijing have rejected a Vatican invitation to four Chinese Catholic bishops to attend a church conference in Rome.

The news is even more depressing in The Times of India (the headline takes the cake, by the way):

BEIJING: Pope Benedict XVI is faced with one of his most serious challenges with China’s officially approved church refusing to attend the forthcoming synod in Rome in October. The move has dashed hopes of reconciliation in the frozen relationship between the Chinese government and the Vatican.

At the heart of the refusal by the official church to participate in the synod is that the Vatican has invited a bishop from Taiwan, which China regards as part of its own territory. The Vatican has invited Catholic bishops from China’s official church, the unofficial church and also from Taiwan.

But the scribes of doom may end up being wrong after all. An analysis by AsiaNews shows that things might not be so bad (thanks to Catholic World News for the link):

There have been signs that Beijing might drop the Maoist policy soon. In June, Beijing accepted the Vatican’s choice of a bishop for Shanghai’s official church. In return, the Vatican agreed not to recognize a successor to the current bishop of Shanghai’s underground church when he passes away. And dual appointments of bishops have become a common practice, promising to remove the divide between the official and underground churches.

If you read the stories in The Times of India and the IHT, you will find that AsiaNews had access to basically the same set of facts.

It’s typical of the media to make events out to be greater than they are. This type of hype proves to be most problematic in diplomatic situations. Complicated and intricate, they can confound a reporter. Measured reports on what may seem to be significant developments are the key, I believe.

Who’s to know how the situation between the Vatican and China will turn out? My guess is that it’s one of those “one step backwards for two steps forwards” situations.

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  • http://www.dailycontentions.com Lucas Sayre

    “It’s typical of the media to make events out to be greater than they are.”

    Rarely a truer statement has been made.

    While I agree this particular episode is not all that significant, I’d not be so optimistic regarding the abandonment of the Maoist policy regarding Church authority.

    The current regime in Beijing has made negative statements about organized religion in that nation.


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