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April 4, 2005

SoMA: A Pope-Free Zone, All Week!

First, I should say that I appreciated Pope John Paul II about as much as any mainline Protestant could—perhaps more, and not because, in addition to being Protestant, I was also baptized Roman Catholic. When the pope visited New York City in October 1995, I was living in San Francisco and I used vacation days at work and cashed in frequent-flyer miles so I could stand in the drizzle in Central Park with more than 100,000 other people to hear the Holy Father deliver a homily on purity. From where I stood, I could clearly see the lines on the pontiff’s face—as long as my binoculars didn’t fog and I had a clear line of sight to the huge screen several hundred yards away.  

True, I went to New York fishing for a story. But still, I got caught up in all the hoopla like everybody else, and I soon found myself touched and moved, literally, as spectators jostled for positions behind police barricades from which to view the pope’s exit from Central Park. I wound up buying several JP II American tour T-shirts and a pile of tacky souvenirs, and I even snapped pictures—close-ups—of the pontiff as he zipped across Fifth Avenue in the Popemobile en route to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Despite all that, I hereby officially declare SoMA to be a 100% pope-free religion website for the rest of the week. John Paul II is getting so much 24/7 coverage it’s dizzying. Personally, I hit papal overload Sunday afternoon, and no wonder—the Associated Press reported that within 24 hours of the pope’s death, more than 35,000 new stories about him appeared around the world. That’s 10 times more stories than were devoted to the re-election of George Bush. If, indeed, the passing of the pope is the biggest religion news story of the century thus far, then really, what could SoMA or any other site possibly add to the zillions of existing John Paul II remembrances, as well as the debates about his legacy, details concerning his funeral, and speculation about his successor? And how much more does anyone really need?

Perhaps part of my fatigue stems from the whiplash we all got when the media shifted suddenly from Terri Schiavo to John Paul II. For weeks the press milked the Schiavo tragedy, whipping us into a frenzy that only intensified after her death last Thursday. Friday’s coverage was full of raw emotion—bitterness, anger, confusion, grief. Then the very next day, the pope died, and the media was like, Terri who? All over the world, the flowers and candles, the tears and prayers, were now for “Il Papa.” While other sites continue to scramble for every pope-related tidbit, SoMA refuses to play that game.

So, if you’re burned out on all things papal—or even if you just need a place to rest, to catch your breath and take your mind off the pontiff for a moment—then SoMA is for you. It’s the only religion site on the Internet that you can trust, after this blog entry, not to offer a single new item about Pope John Paul II—all week long.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email


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