A Global Pope

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(HOST) Commentator Bill Seamans thinks that it’s especially fitting for the funeral of Pope John Paul to be televised worldwide.

(SEAMANS) John Paul the Second has been called the first truly global Pope. He took advantage of the jet plane age that matured during his reign and, as we have witnessed, Pope John traveled more than any of his predecessors. Pope John Paul was exceptionally tuned into the world beyond the Vatican and he was well aware of how the ancient traditions of his office could be enhanced by the technical world outside.

Thus, his popularity grew as the jet plane enabled millions of Catholics around the world to actually see, for the first time, a Pope in person, hear directly his message and prayers and receive his blessing – an experience greater than any words that the print media or the sound of radio could convey.

Pope John’s global perspective also was remarkably broadened by his awareness of the power of television. He was mindful of the dramatic advances in TV satellite technology during his regime and he took advantage of television to enable his image and voice to reach millions of Catholics wherever they were in the global village.

For the past several days, we have heard many of the clergy who talked to Pope John tell us of comments he had made during their discussions. The Pope told one that he believed “people are living in an environment of communications.” Pope John was said to think this was extremely important because he believed that television gave the poverty-stricken illiterate and uneducated lower classes their first real window on how the outside world was living. These were the deprived people who were of prime concern for Pope John, and he believed that television enabled his message of hope to reach them.

I was surprised when I heard one prelate say that Pope John told him that he thought “if it doesn’t happen on television, it doesn’t happen.” This statement, the bishop said, was an example of how Pope John sometimes used his sense of humor to embellish a serious thought.

But on Monday morning we saw a very dramatic demonstration of the value this global Pope put on the power of television when, no doubt as he wished, TV cameras showed, for the first time, the majestic pageantry of the procession that moved the dead Pope’s body from his residence to St. Peter’s Basilica. There Pope John will remain in the TV camera’s eye on view as tens of thousands of pilgrims file by until his funeral on Friday. Even the most popular television stations in the muslim world, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, broadcast this event.

It was one of the most powerful scenes this former network television news person has seen in a 38 year career. As one Vatican priest said of this global pope, “Even in his sleep of death he reaches everyone in the world.”

This is Bill Seamans.

Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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