Mangling the message: Papal Easter talk gets a warped reflection in The Mirror

How many gaffes can you pack into the start of a story? In its coverage of Pope Francis' Easter message yesterday, the UK-based Mirror seemed to be trying to find out.

And what a time for sloppy reporting -- the most important holiday on the calendar of the world's largest religion.

Check this out:

Pope Francis says defeat Islamic State 'with weapons of love' during Easter message
Pope Francis has urged the world in his Easter message to use the "weapons of love" to combat the evil of "blind and brutal violence" following the tragic attacks in Brussels.
The Roman Catholic church leader said an Easter Sunday Mass under tight security for tens of thousands of people in St Peter's Square.
After the service, he gave a traditional speech in which he addressed violence, injustice and threats to peace in many parts of the world.
He said: "May he [the risen Jesus] draw us closer on this Easter feast to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world."

Francis did decry multiple social ills: armed conflicts, "brutal crimes," ethnic and religious persecution, climate change caused by exploiting natural resources, fears of the young and the elderly alike. And yes, he denounced terrorism, "that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed blood in different parts of the world."

But he said nothing about the Islamic State -- or, for that matter, the acronyms of ISIS, ISIL or Daesh. Nor did he tell anyone to use the "weapons of love" in the Middle East conflict.

Both the headline and the text "take a phrase that the pope used to describe God’s past action and made it appear that the pope applied it to man’s future actions," blogger Jimmy Akin says in the National Catholic Register. "It may even be worse than incompetence. It may be malfeasance."

The speech was the Urbi et Orbi, which the pope gives each Easter and Christmas "To The City And The World" -- i.e., Rome and the world at large.

"With the weapons of love, God has defeated selfishness and death," Francis said. "His son Jesus is the door of mercy wide open to all." I.e., he referred to something God has already done, not something we had to do today. And that's the only appearance of "weapons of love" in the address.

Funny thing is, the Mirror correctly quotes the pope, then adds still another distortion:

"With the weapons of love, God has defeated selfishness and death," the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholic population said.
The 79-year-old Argentine pontiff urged people to channel the hope of Easter in order to defeat "the evil that seems to have the upper hand in the life of so many people".

No, the 79-year-old Argentine pontiff didn’t urge us to do that, either. He said to take comfort and courage from what Christ has done. Here are his actual words:

Along with our brothers and sisters persecuted for their faith and their fidelity to the name of Christ, and before the evil that seems to have the upper hand in the life of so many people, let us hear once again the comforting words of the Lord: “Take courage; I have conquered the world!" Today is the radiant day of this victory, for Christ has trampled death and destruction underfoot. By his resurrection he has brought life and immortality to light.

So the Mirror took a standard papal Easter message -- blending spiritual insights with social awareness -- and tried to mutate it into a program for international diplomacy.

"Both the article and the headline lead the reader to think that the pope said something which he did not say," fumes Jimmy Akin of the National Catholic Register. "They both take a phrase that the pope used to describe God’s past action and made it appear that the pope applied it to man’s future actions."

Not that the Mirror is alone in the errors. "People should deploy what he calls weapons of love to fight the evil of terrorism," says the voiceover in Deutsche Welle's video report on Francis' address (see clip above).

Reuters, too, shockingly echoed the same gaffe: "Pope Francis urged the world in his Easter message on Sunday to use the 'weapons of love' to combat the evil of 'blind and brutal violence,' following the attacks in Brussels." Shockingly, because the writer was Reuters' Vatican reporter, Philip Pullella.

Even today, Breitbart retained the "weapons of love" misuse. All this a day after the New York Times ran the AP's story on the official Vatican translation.

Fortunately, it looks like most media didn’t emulate such careless reporting.  Setting the standard was the Religion News Service, which got it right yesterday:

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis made an emotional appeal for global peace during his traditional "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) Easter blessing, urging people to remember victims of the "blind and brutal violence" in recent terrorist attacks, such as last week’s Brussels bombings that killed dozens of people.
Throughout, he emphasized a key theme of his pontificate: mercy.
Speaking from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica amid tight security, the pope said mercy and "weapons of love" were the only answer to "hatred and death" as he reflected on the world’s violent hotspots.
"The Lord Jesus by his resurrection triumphed over evil and sin," Francis said. "May he draw us closer on this Easter feast to the victims of terrorism, that blind and brutal form of violence which continues to shed innocent blood in different parts of the world, as in recent attacks in Belgium, Turkey, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and the Ivory Coast."

RNS struck the right tone, got the facts straight, named the speech correctly, and resisted reading into the speech what Francis didn’t say. It's an example that other media would do well to "Mirror."

 

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