If the Pope meets with the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and no video equipment or photographers are allowed, did the meeting really happen?That's the humor behind a more serious analysis of why the Vatican prevented photo and video records of the recent meeting Benedict XVI had with Nancy Pelosi. This was an unusual restriction but apparently the pontiff thought it necessary so that Pelosi would not use such imagery to convey an image to American voters that she and the pope are buddies.
So why did Pelosi get the no-photos treatment?
Before Pelosi’s visit, false rumors had been swirling on the Internet that the pope was going to present her with an award. Instead, the pope told her that all Catholics, especially lawmakers, must work to protect life at every stage. The pope’s message to Pelosi, a Catholic Democrat, was clearly aimed at reversing her support for keeping abortion legal.
In not releasing photos, the Vatican minimized the encounter and at the same time carefully controlled perceptions of the meeting. A Vatican statement released after the meeting said the pope “briefly greeted” Pelosi. The statement said “His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death.”
While the Vatican’s statement focused on abortion, Pelosi’s statement after the meeting had a different take. She said that she praised “the church’s leadership in fighting poverty, hunger and global warming, as well as the Holy Father’s dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel.”
Two very different views of the same meeting, each party carefully controlling the message.
Would a photo of Pelosi and the pope together change perceptions of their meeting?
On walls throughout the world hang countless images of individuals meeting the pope. The formula used in the photos is tried and true: A smiling pope and a smiling subject meeting each other and shaking hands. The images convey an implicit connection with the pope and imply a sense of the pontiff bestowing his favor on the subject.
For all their simplicity, these images are very powerful. For many they are treasured keepsakes, but they are also used by countless people to promote themselves and their causes.
In not allowing photos of Pelosi meeting the pope, the Vatican recognized the power of the still image and its ability to be interpreted and used in many ways. Unlike a written statement, a still image is much more open to having many different interpretations.
And who said the Vatican isn't media savvy?
GRATUITOUS SELF-CONGRATULATORY NOTE - This is post 1,100.
Labels: Existential Questions, Nancy Pelosi, Pope Benedict