Pope Benedict's secret enthusiasm meter

Is there some kind of "enthusiasm meter" that journalists consult to judge the popularity of a pope? That's what one reader asked, sending along this Associated Press story. Here's the headline:

Mexican worshippers underwhelmed by papal visit

Are they? Interesting.

Here's the dramatic lede:

In a country at least nominally 90 percent Catholic, you would think the news of another papal visit would be met with jubilation.

It's not that the millions of faithful in Mexico aren't happy about Pope Benedict XVI's upcoming visit, expected before Easter next year.

It's just that they can't drum up the same kind of emotion they had for his predecessor, the late Pope John Paul II, a man so beloved that the Vatican was presenting his relics, a vial of blood and a wax likeness, in more than 100 locations throughout the country.

So obviously one might want to know how this enthusiasm is gauged. We learn that Pope John Paul II visited Mexico five times and drew millions each time. We learn that PJPII spoke Spanish, which endeared him to Mexicans who still buy up various goodies with his image.

Here was one thing I found interesting:

There are no Benedict-related items for sale here.

"That Holiness is not very commercial," explained Jorge Sanchez, a 30-year-old vendor.

The "here" refers, I suppose, to Mexico City. I find it hard to believe that there are literally no Benedict-related items for sale in Mexico City when you can pick them up at the Wal-Mart in Cabo, where my in-laws live. But, hey, I've never been to Mexico City.

The story picks up on some nice liturgical elements, such as the fact that Benedict confirmed his travel plans during a Mass honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Here's more info from that enthusiasm meter:

Many of those who had traveled for days on foot or cycled along highways as a sacrifice applauded when the basilica's vicar, Monsignor Enrique Glennie Graue, told them Benedict was coming to Mexico.

"His visit shows that he loves Mexico, and in return, Mexico will love him as much as it loved John Paul II," said Socorro Avendano, 23, accompanied by her husband and 5-month-old daughter. "But we have to see him. We have to see his devotion to Mexico."

Those who love the phrase "it remains to be seen" will like this line that followed some info about celebrations of the Virgin of Guadalupe:

It remained to be seen if Pope Benedict will generate as much enthusiasm.

Gabriel Ramirez, a 22-year-old baker, traveled 10 hours on a bus from the southern state of Oaxaca with his wife and 10-month-old daughter to visit the virgin.

But he said it was unlikely he would repeat the trip to see the pope.

"I don't think I would come because it is too far," he said.

So we have three anecdotes to substantiate the report that Mexico is underwhelmed. One (somewhat surprising) story from someone who says one of the largest cities in the world has no items bearing the name or likeness of Benedict. Another from someone who says that Mexico will love Benedict just as much as Pope John Paul II, once it gets to meet him. And another saying he can't make two 20-hour round-trip bus rides with an infant in the span of five months.

Maybe the report is right and Mexico couldn't care about a papal visit. I don't know. But perhaps we could use a bit more reportage to substantiate this idea.

Love meter image via Shutterstock.

Please respect our Commenting Policy