Friday, 29 March 2013

Religion in the air - and on the street

The likes of the National Secular Society vigorously proclaim the inappropriateness of a public presence in society for religion and matters of religion.

But recent weeks have seen an extent of media coverage of things religious, and in particular Roman Catholic, that is quite surprising, considering the irreligious nature of much of society in developed nations.

The interest in the resignation of Benedict XVI - both in terms of the numbers of people turning out for his last two Angelus addresses and in terms of the news media - was surprising enough.

The interest in the Conclave - again both in terms of the numbers in St Peter's Square waiting for the smoke (don't forget the Sistine Seagull) and the media attention - was surprising.

And there is the continuing media interest in the early days of the pontificate of Pope Francis.

Of course, there is the element of scandal that is covered as well; and coverage that might be described as hostile. But nevertheless there has been an extent of interest that might not have been expected. The icon of this is the media stand on the edge of St Peter's Square - that remained from the announcement of the resignation of Benedict XVI until after the inauguration of the pontificate of Francis I. Some 5 000 journalists were accredited to cover the Conclave ...

It is the extent of the interest, from the ordinary faithful and from the media, that has quite taken me by surprise.

And today, in the part of the London metropolis that I will be frequenting later, there will be a Stations of the Cross through the streets of Soho and a Passion play performed twice in Trafalgar Square. And that is before any consideration is given to events in other parts of the capital.

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