Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Vatican controls all the live film we see of Papal events. Part 1

All the live film we see is fed to stations like EWTN and ktotv by Vatican TV. If an incident occurs that involves the person of the Holy Father, they do their best to make sure that pictures on the monitor showing the actual events, are not broadcast. If there isn't time to do that, the camera personnel seem to have instructions to veer away from the Holy Father and focus on something else. An example of this was the footage of Pope Benedict's visit to earthquake stricken L'Aquila earlier this year. As usual I watched the event on kto. I don't think EWTN carried it. After his speech the Pope almost dashed away from his position on the podium and tripped, I think over a decorative plant pot, but could not be certain because the camera jerked away so quickly that the screen blurred. There was a collective gasp from the crowd as he began to fall and there was no concealing it. Fortunately he righted himself as he has done on several other occasions, including at one of the several celebrations of Vespers in St. Paul-outside-the-Walls this year. I watched the whole thing and it was not shown. I only came to know of it from a friend who was actually there. Obviously it is easier to conceal certain shots at a big liturgical event than it is at a small intense gathering like the L'Aquila one, where the camera is focused almost exclusively on the Holy Father.

To some extent, I agree with this policy of the Vatican when it comes to what is seen on TV. Nobody, except the sensationalist or malicious would wish to see our Holy Father in a position where he is stripped of his dignity. Of course, the mass secular media appear to want us to see such things, which explains why Sky TV apparently gave so much time to the incident on Friday night. Ironically this meant that they showed more of the Mass than they normally would have done but one is left with the unpleasant suspicion that on Christmas Eve especially, they would have loved to send images round the world of the Pope spreadeagled on the floor of St. Peter's nave. At least Vatican policy prevented that. The secular media fail to understand, that Catholics, however much or little they were allowed to see from Vatican TV, immediately thought of their Holy Father as vulnerable and accepting of whatever happened to him, and in his own way reflecting his Master, who fell on the road to Calvary and was stripped of all dignity on His arrival there. Images are one thing, but I do not think it acceptable that we be denied audio commentary, to the extent that most of us apparently knew nothing of what had happened until Christmas morning.

It's now time to descibe my own experience, one that I'm sure many readers share.

Christmas Eve. 9pm UK time:
The kto programme did not commence as scheduled at 10pm our time. It always brings my heart to my mouth when they are late like this, but on Chrismas Eve? The programme eventually started about ten minutes late. At this point the Holy Father had almost arrived at the altar end of the nave. He looked a little serious. Normally he is wreathed in smiles when arriving to celebrate one of the two most joyful Masses of the Christian year, but I was glad and relieved to see him, and so looking forward to the Mass that I did not think to question the ten minute delay, or to realise that the commentary must have already begun because there wasn't the usual welcome to viewers. At the altar the Holy Father looked serene. He smiled at the thurifer before the incensing. (Now I know that he was probably encouraging the poor chap and saying with his eyes, "Look, you can see I'm all right. That's all over. Let's get on with the most important thing.") The Mass began and I was able to put earlier anxieties out of mind. Everything appeared to be completely normal.

Christmas Day 7.45am UK time:
I found the special email that Catholic Culture had sent to its subscribers. It led me to that chilling little video. Even though I trust Catholic Culture as responsible purveyors of news, I admit that it flashed through my mind that this was some kind of mock-up, a sick joke. And yet once the video began I knew it was real. It was indeed raw and from a cell-phone. Father Lombardi says the Pope stumbled. From what I saw, he went down like a ninepin. I don't think any of us will ever forget the lurching of our hearts as the woman leapt the barrier, and seconds later, as he fell and his mitre disappeared from view.

You know it took me some time to recover sufficiently to post about it. I had to do that as my bounden duty. This Oasis is dedicated to Pope Benedict. I was angry that we had been deprived of this news the previous night; upset that we had been prevented during that 'Midnight Mass' from offering thanksgiving to God for his preservation; and distressed that we had been lied to by omission and prevented at the time from a full appreciation of our Holy Father's strength, courage, fortitude and focus. For this reason I decided to watch the kto repeat video and it was then that I made an even more exasperating discovery.

This video, which had still not been edited when I last checked, actually begins before the Procession starts. The organ strikes up and the Choir begins the 'Tu es Petrus'. They have time to sing only the first two phrases. The camera is looking down the nave. The papal group is not on vision. And then a collective reaction of horror goes up. Clearly something has happened. We see the procession halt. The servers ahead of the Pope freeze to the spot. Discipline and/or shock prevents any of them from looking back to see what has happened. Security men start running from all directions. The soundtrack tells you there is a kerfuffle going on which you cannot actually see. Eventually, as we now know courtesy of Orbis Catholicus, after 51 seconds a roar of applause goes up. We see things start moving again. The choir begins the Introit. We see the part of the procession that had been thrown into disarray regrouping and then there are shots of happy faces in the crowd applauding the Pope. And then at last we see him again. It is the same shot which began the broadcast the previous night.

But the most astonishing thing was, that whilst we were actually SEEING ALL THIS, the commentator ignored it totally and prattled on about how many cardinals were at the Mass etc. etc. It was as if he were at another event altogether, certainly not the one we were watching.
He did not commentate on what we were being shown. Have a look at the video yourself, unless of course they've edited it since I last checked. It flies in the face of any claim to journalistic integrity. But most of all why show this video after the event? Why not clip it first, unless to show the kind of thing the Vatican insists upon in such circumstances.

More questions arise from these of course and I intend to approach them in a post tomorrow. In the meantime I hope you have all had a holy and happy Feast of The Holy Family and are ready to enter into the mystery of the massacre of the Holy Innocents tomorrow.

1 comment:

pelerin said...

Incroyable! I have just had a look at the beginning of the video of the Midnight Mass on kto. The commentator just waffles on mentioning the Christmas tree and crib in the Square etc. whilst people are scurrying to and fro. Not a hint in his voice of what is actually happening and the cameras miss it all too. You can see the wheel chair being brought in on the left for poor old Cardinal Etchegaray. (There is a good interview with him on one of the old kto videos and I was sad when I found out he was the cardinal who had suffered in this way)

I was unable to watch it live but it looks as though I would have been none the wiser until the morning because of the censorship.