Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Our Man in Vatican City

The papal election is just about the least journalism-friendly event in the world. It's held entirely in secret, there are never any leaks, and once the winner is announced the ballots are destroyed. Basically, you could set up a pool camera in St Peter's Square and save the world's media a ton of money.  There's barely any reason for the international press to send representatives, let alone a small local paper from Mexico.  Unless you were junketeering, that is.

For the last two weeks the editor in chief of our local paper, Sergio Arturo "I'm writing as bad as I can" Venegas Ramírez has been on the ground in the Vatican, sipping espresso, sampling some wines, visiting the Mona Lisa (the real one, not the crude forgery in the Louvre), and filing the occasional story, usually illustrated with a photo of himself.  Here he is admiring the Sistine Chapel.  Here he is talking to a Mexican cardinal. Look, he's filing copy from the Vatican press room! And sitting in a restaurant the papa-emeritus used to eat at! Our Man in Vatican City!  Meanwhile, Plaza de Armas has put out 15 straight editions without him in the office, with no appreciable loss of quality.

Today, taking up a quarter of the front page, is a photo of Our Man in Vatican City interviewing the Vatican spokesman, with a screaming headline announcing that, um, the Vatican spokesman talked to him.

"World Exclusive"

After a few inches of describing how the spokesman's spokesman called him and said he could have an interview, and then how he went there and met him, Our Man in Vatican City uncorks the tough questions: "Taking his hand, I asked him to say a few words to the faithful of our country."

"All popes love Mexico very much," Lombardi says, notwithstanding the fact that the first 215 popes didn't even know Mexico existed, and the last pope didn't want to visit here, and then suffered a papacy-ending head wound when he did.  (Within hours of publication, the cardinals would elect a pope from Argentina, the most-loathed Latin American nation among a wide swath of Mexico's population.) But Our Man in Vatican City knew he was telling the truth because of "the enormous smile he gave upon learning where this reporter was from."

"Mexico is very important to us," Lombardi continues. "We went on five trips there with John Paul II to that beautiful land." (John Paul II has been dead for eight years.)  He mentions that Benedict XVI has also been to Mexico.  The two men agree that the Virgin of Guadalupe is very, very important.

The interview, which appears to have lasted about four minutes, comes to an end, and Our Man in Vatican City turns the spotlight back where it belongs: on Our Man in Vatican City.
[Lombardi] says goodbye, blessing the Mexicans. Off he goes, through the halls of the labyrinthine backstage Media Center, where the reporters don't even realize he's walking among them. Well, except for Plaza de Armas...
Anyway, there you have it: Popes, generally speaking, like Mexico.  We'll bring you any follow-up on this story as events warrant.


Charles Pergiel said...

"... Argentina, the most-loathed Latin American nation among a wide swath of Mexico's population." Please tell me more.

Burro Hall said...

they have a well-deserved reputation for looking down on everyone.