Great joy but not so easy to find on TV

Great joy but not so easy to find on TV Pope Francis in Mozambque

The Pope’s visit to Africa received minimal coverage on mainstream media. BBC and RTÉ did cover the Mass attended by a million people in Madagascar last Sunday, while US Catholic channel EWTN filled the gap with a range of programmes during the week and over last weekend.

Last Thursday I particularly enjoyed Pope Francis in Mozambique (EWTN), coverage of the Pope’s meeting with young people. He seemed particularly animated and cheerful in his keynote address, praising and thanking the young people for their artistic endeavours and presentations.

He complimented them – “you are the joy of this land” – urging them to realise they were important, adding with a smile “but with humility”. He stressed the importance of hope and reconciliation and suggested to them that resignation and anxiety were two negatives to be avoided. This interreligious gathering, he said, showed people how to live together, how to live diversity in the face of those who would create division and conflict.

Apart from live coverage EWTN News Nightly gave regular updates capturing the essence of the papal visit, including commentary from reporters on the ground along with colourful and enthusiastic welcoming ceremonies from Mozambique and Madagascar.

I heard nothing about the visit on Newstalk and could find no mention of it on their website, but I was impressed by Ivan Yates’ interview with Archbishop Eamon Martin on The Hard Shoulder (Newstalk), on Thursday.  The archbishop distinguished between a “healthy secularity” in terms of separation between Church and State, but wasn’t a fan of “aggressive secularism” or indeed of sectarianism, which was one of Yates’ fears when politics and religion mixed. The Archbishop thought people of faith should bring their deep convictions to public debates on political issues. He had a problem with an attitude that suggested you leave your faith behind you in the political sphere, and this applied particularly to core issues like the sacredness of life – a value discoverable by reason not just by religious faith.

On the sacredness of life issue it was great to see such a huge turnout at pro-life events in the North – last Friday a silent vigil at Stormont and last Saturday the Rally for Life in Belfast city centre. Both were huge events, with thousands attending. You’d think that would be newsworthy, but coverage in mainstream media was poor.

I heard Newstalk’s News Headlines on Saturday at 6pm and 7pm, when they reported the rally along with a pro-choice march and then interviewed two people from the pro-choice rally only! I couldn’t find any trace of the story on Newstalk’s website .

On RTÉ1’s Nine News on Saturday the pro-choice march got top billing above what was described significantly as the “much larger” pro-life Rally. But RTÉ didn’t use the word ‘pro-life’ (station policy?) using ‘anti-abortion’ instead. However the other side got their preferred description, described as ‘pro-choice’.


In drama land there has been a glut of new shows on TV. Manifest (Sky One, Tuesdays) has an intriguing premise – passengers on a plane from Jamaica experience severe turbulence and when they finally land it’s five years later!

Life has moved on without them which causes quite a few relationship issues, and to cap it all they have visions and premonitions (characterised as ‘callings’), which seem benign.

There’s speculation that there might be a religious dimension and some take that too far, regarding the ‘returned’ as saints or divine or at least as miraculous healers.

One of the returned sees potential, sets up the Church of the Returned for the devotees and passes the collection basket. Melissa Roxburgh makes for a feisty heroine, a prickly, sometimes surly cop whose boyfriend has married her best friend in her absence.

At one stage she has a chat with a priest about her situation, but this plot line hasn’t been developed yet. Needless to say shadowy elements in the military want to weaponise the special powers of the passengers and intrigue ensues.

It bears comparison to Lost in plot terms (mystery flight etc.), though it’s more ‘Lost Lite’, at least so far. Some of it is clichéd but the characters are sympathetic, there are some interesting speculations on science and religion, meaning in life is regarded as important, there are residues of traditional morality (e.g. family is vital, a particular adulterous one-night stand is seen as morally wrong) and it moves along at a sprightly pace. I’ll stick with this one.


Pick of the Week
BBC1, Sunday, September 15, 1.15 pm

Rev. Kate Bottley visits the sacred Christian pilgrimage site of Lourdes in south west France, revealing how she first went as a child.

EWTN, Sunday, September 15, 4 pm, also Thursday, September 19, 9 am and (night) 3 am

A moving exploration of the life of St Padre Pio, a Capuchin 
friar who bore the stigmata for 50 years; with much live footage, including his last Mass.

BBC2, Friday, September 20, 9 pm

Filmed over a historic year, with unprecedented access, we see Pope Francis and those who work in the Vatican prepare for the most sacred celebration in the Church calendar, Easter.