Pope Goes the World as Francis' Visit Dominates Headlines

AP
Pope Francis with U.S. President Barack Obama

Media in Europe, Latin America celebrate the pontiff's 'rockstar reception', while China downplays the visit to focus on president Xi Jinping's U.S. tour.

Pope Francis' historic American tour has dominated coverage across Latin America and much of Europe, with television, newspapers and websites fawning over the “rockstar reception” he has received stateside, and editorials from Brazil to Berlin praising his forthright critique before the U.S. Congress of capitalism, immigration policy and climate change.

“His will be done,” was the headline on Germany's Suddeutsche Zeitung.

Given the Pope's South American roots and the region's largely Catholic population, it is unsurprising that his first pan-American tour was given blanket coverage, the majority of it overwhelmingly positive.

In the pontiff's home nation of Argentina, however, there was a short blip of outrage after a local news website, Primicias Ya, misunderstood a tweet by Kim Kardashian (“The pope is dope) to mean “the pope is drugs” and attacked the reality TV star for apparently slandering the holy father.

In the Vatican homeland, Italian TV stations have devoted round-the-clock coverage to the Pope's visit, focusing on his speech before Congress and his meeting with President Obama at the White House.

Newspapers including Corriere Della Sera, Il sole 24 ore and Repubblica led with the Pope's condemnation of the death penalty, analyzing the political value of his trip. In-house agency Vatican News, the go-to source for all things Papa Francesco, detailed the Pope's every move  — from visits with the poor to his focus on freedom as America's greatest value. They described his U.S. Congress address as historic and well-received with frequent interruptions of applause.

In similarly Catholic-heavy Spain the media has gone Pope-crazy, pouring over every aspect of his visit  — from security measures to his speech. “The Pope Challenges the American Right with a Progressive Message” said a headline in El Pais while El Mundo claimed that the rapturous reception proved that “the U.S. (deep down) is a Catholic country.”

In more Protestant Northern Europe, the Pope's visit was pushed off the top news spot by the tragedy at the Hajj and Europe's continuing refugee crisis. The pontiff still got plenty of air time and newspaper ink, but it was not quite as gushing as elsewhere.

In the U.K.  — which famously split from the Vatican in the third episode of Wolf Hall  — the Papal visit hasn't been getting blanket coverage, but The Guardian echoed other media that he'd been given a "rockstar welcome" in New York, while the Daily Mail  — never one to knowingly miss an outrage  — noted that Michelle Obama had worn a Carolina Herrera dress worth $2,300 to meet the pontiff "despite his views on unbridled capitalism." Interestingly, the paper chose not to then advertise said dress  — as it usually does  — at the end of the online story.

One major exception to the global media's Pope-crazy coverage is China, where Pope Francis' grand entrance has been met with the TV news equivalent of scant, awkward applause. Instead, according to state broadcaster CCTV, "the most talked about event in the U.S. this week," is Chinese President Xi Jinping's simultaneous visit to the U.S. The network made no mention of U.S. media frenzy surrounding all things pontiff.

Since Xi's arrival in the U.S. on Tuesday, the Chinese state propaganda apparatus has gone into overdrive, shaping and presenting the moment as a U.S. media phenomenon that's "dominating headlines" and becoming a "trending topic for most Americans." Chinese coverage of the Pope's celebrity style welcoming by the U.S. press has been scarce to non-existent.

The Pope has also expressed a desire to visit China, but so far no word from Mr. Xi.

Alex Ritman in London, Pamela Rolfe in Spain and Ariston Anderson in Rome contributed to this report.

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