Maybe I am wrong on this, but I was under the impression that media superstar Pope Francis could say just about anything right now (other than affirming Catholic moral teachings, of course) and draw major coverage from the mainstream press.
Apparently I was wrong. Why do I say this?
Well, right now the biggest religion-news story in the world is the rise of the Islamic State and its reign of terror in the Middle East. You can look that up.
At the same time, Pope Francis remains the most important religious voice on the planet, in terms of media coverage. You can look that up, too.
Now, toss in the annual editorial need to find valid Christmas news stories and one would assume that journalists would devote quite a bit of attention if Pope Francis issued a strongly-worded Christmas letter of encouragement to people being massacred by the Islamic State. Am I right about that?
Honestly, I picked up my morning newspaper and expected that story to be covered, big time. I looked and I looked. Well, here is the Associated Press report:
Pope Francis is urging Mideast Christians to remain in the land of Christ’s birth, despite the “previously unimaginable” attacks against them by Muslim extremists.
In a Christmas greeting released Tuesday, Francis said the mere presence of the tiny Christian community in the Middle East is more important than any service the church can provide there. He said he hopes to visit in person, but that for now he wants to write to provide words of comfort and solidarity.
The pope condemned trafficking in weapons and demanded that Muslim religious leaders clearly condemn attacks against religious minorities and using religion to justify them.
That's it. That's the whole story, as archived at the main AP website.
I found this very confusing. However, something happened at my local gym this morning that shed some insight on this strange situation. Looking up at the monitors over the exercise bikes, I noticed that Fox News gave lots of attention to the Pope Francis letter, while CNN did not.
So that explained everything.
This papal letter about the Islamic State and oppressed religious minorities was a "conservative" news story -- even though the pope never used the words "religious liberty" or even "religious freedom." You can look that up, as well, by reading the letter.
So here is my question on this Christmas Eve. Why was this papal statement not very newsworthy or, if it was, why was it "conservative news"? Right up front, let's assume that it would be possible to cover both this story and the pope's blunt message to the curia, which is obviously quite newsworthy.
I would honestly like input in our comments pages, especially from journalists, Catholic readers or Catholic readers who are journalists. Be nice, but be honest.
UPDATE: Ah, so John L. Allen, Jr., covered this with a major story at Crux. I think that kind of makes my point, however. That's a compliment to the omnipresent Allen.