Yes, calling evangelical pastors 'priests' is a mistake: But who made that mistake?

Yes, calling evangelical pastors 'priests' is a mistake: But who made that mistake?

It's time for a quick trip into my GetReligion folder of guilt to deal with a headline on a report at that annoyed several faithful readers.

That headline: "20 evangelical priests among those killed in Cuban plane crash."

Yes, you read that right -- "evangelical priests."

Now, that's a rather basic mistake and it's easy to point that out. However, in this case, the more interesting question is this one: Who actually made this mistake and why did they make it?

The easy answer is to say that the editor who wrote the headline got confused or just didn't care about the facts. At the very least, the headline writer passed along a mistake made by a different journalist earlier in the reporting and editing process.

Let's look for clues at the top of the report. Here is the lede:

Twenty evangelical priests are among more than 100 people killed when a plane crashed outside of Havana on Friday, according to The Associated Press.

Ah, so this was an AP mistake. Hold that thought, while we read on a bit.

“On that plane were 10 couples of pastors. 20 people. All of the Nazarene Church in the eastern region,” confirmed Maite Quesada, a member the Cuban Council of Churches.

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Castro's death: For a follow-up, Associated Press story misses big religious angles

Castro's death: For a follow-up, Associated Press story misses big religious angles

The banging pots and honking horns have faded on Miami's Calle Ocho, where Cuban-Americans noisily celebrated the death of Fidel Castro. Thus, it's time for some reflection on what it means for peace and freedom -- including freedom of religion.

So the Associated Press shows the right instinct in its Sunday story out of Miami on the aftermath of El Comandante's death. Yet it largely leaves ghostly trails in what could have offered some spiritual insights on the story.

We get early warnings of a scattershot story:

MIAMI (AP) -- Celebration turned to somber reflection and church services Sunday as Cuban-Americans in Miami largely stayed off the streets following a raucous daylong party in which thousands marked the death of Fidel Castro.
One Cuban exile car dealer, however, sought to turn the revolutionary socialist's death into a quintessential capitalist deal by offering $15,000 discounts on some models.
And on the airwaves, top aides to President-elect Donald Trump promised a hard look at the recent thaw in U.S. relations with Cuba.

Cuba, as you may or may not know, is on the watch list of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. USCIRF's 2016 report tells of increased surveillance, harassment, closure and destruction of churches there -- on a level with the likes of Russia, Malaysia, Turkey and Afghanistan.

But here is AP's version of the religious facet in this story:

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Rome meets Russia: Media bury role of persecution in historic summit (# LOL update)

Rome meets Russia: Media bury role of persecution in historic summit (# LOL update)

Did you hear about the historic meeting that will occur today between the media superstar Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Orthodox Church of Moscow and All Russia? Is there up-front coverage of this in your newspaper this morning?

The meeting is taking place in Havana for the expressed purpose of voicing support for persecuted Christians facing genocide in parts of the Middle East, primarily -- at the moment -- in Syria and Iraq. There is very little that Rome and Moscow agree on at the moment, when it comes to ecumenical matters, but Francis and Kirill are both very concerned about the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in that devastated region.

Have you heard about this in major media?

If you are interested, this was the topic of this week's "Crossroads" podcast. Click here to tune that in. I also wrote about the background of this meeting in a previous GetReligion post ("The 'Passion' that looms over the historic Rome-Moscow meeting") and in this week's "On Religion" column for the Universal syndicate.

Now, call me naive, but I thought that this meeting would receive major coverage. This is, after all, the first ever meeting -- first as in it has never happened before in history -- between the leader of the pope of Rome and the patriarch of the world's largest branch of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

Syria is also in the news, last time I checked. There is a possibility that Americans -- this is a nation that includes a few Christians who read newspapers -- might be interested in a statement by Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill on the massacre of Christians in Syria and elsewhere.

I guess I am naive. It appears that the meeting in Cuba today is not very important at all. I mean, look at the front page of The New York Times website.

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Weekend think piece: The 'Passion' that looms over the historic Rome-Moscow meeting

Weekend think piece: The 'Passion' that looms over the historic Rome-Moscow meeting

First things first: Click play on the above YouTube. Now begin reading.

As you would expect, I have received quite a bit of email during the past 24 hours linked to my GetReligion post -- "What brings Rome and Moscow together at last? Suffering churches in Syria, Iraq" -- about the mainstream media coverage of the stunning announcement of a Feb. 12 meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the leader of the Orthodox Church of All Russia.

As you would expect, much of the press coverage has stressed what this all means, from a Roman Catholic and Western perspective.

This is understandable, since there are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world and Francis is the brightest star in the religion-news firmament at the moment. People who know their history, however, know that this meeting is also rooted in the life and work of Saint Pope John Paul II, who grew up in a Polish Catholic culture that shares so much with the churches of the East, spiritually and culturally.

I updated my piece yesterday to point readers toward a fine Crux think piece by the omnipresent (yes, I'll keep using that word) John L. Allen, Jr. Let me do that once again. Read it all, please. Near the end, there is this interesting comment concerning Pope Francis:

... His foreign policy priorities since his election have been largely congenial to Russia’s perceived interests. In September 2013, he joined forces with Vladimir Putin in successfully heading off a proposed Western military offensive in Syria to bring down the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Since then, Francis and Putin have met in the Vatican and found common ground on several matters, including the protection of Christians in the Middle East and the growing reemergence of Cuba in the community of nations.

This morning, my email contained another essay by a Catholic scribe that I stress is essential reading for those starting a research folder to prepare to cover the meeting in Havana. This is from Inside the Vatican and it is another eLetter from commentator Robert Moynihan.

This piece is simply packed with amazing details about events -- some completely overlooked by the mainstream media -- that have almost certainly, one after another, contributed to the logic of the Cuba meeting between Francis and Kirill.

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What brings Rome and Moscow together at last? Suffering churches in Syria, Iraq (updated)

What brings Rome and Moscow together at last? Suffering churches in Syria, Iraq (updated)

It is certainly the most important story of the day for the world's Eastern Orthodox Christians. Yes, even bigger than the announcement -- with the lengthy fast (no meat, no dairy) of Great Lent approaching -- that Ben & Jerry's is poised to begin selling vegan ice cream.

I am referring to the announcement of a meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Orthodox Church in Russia.

Any meeting between the pope and the patriarch of all Russia would be historic, simply because the shepherds of Rome and Moscow have never met before. Hold that thought, because we will come back to it.

The big question, of course, is: Why are they meeting? What finally pushed the button to ease the tensions enough between these two churches for their leaders to meet?

In terms of the early news coverage, the answer depends on whether you are one of the few news consumers who will have a chance to read the Reuters report, being circulated by Religion News Service, or one of the many who see the Associated Press story that is, I believe, deeply flawed. Alas, the majority of news consumers will probably see a shortened version of the AP report and will be totally in the dark about the primary purpose of this historic meeting.

So here is the top of the Reuters report:

MOSCOW -- The patriarch of Russia’s Orthodox Church will take part in an historic first meeting with the Roman Catholic pontiff on Feb. 12 because of the need for a joint response to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, the Orthodox Church said.
Senior Orthodox cleric Metropolitan Hilarion said that long-standing differences between the two churches remain, most notably a row over the status of the Uniate Church, in Ukraine. But he said these differences were being put aside so that Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis could come together over persecution of Christians.

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Reporter does it all: gushes over Francis, receives blessing, covers papal trip for CNN

Reporter does it all: gushes over Francis, receives blessing, covers papal trip for CNN

In journalism, some rules are pretty clear.

White House correspondents don't wave campaign signs for the president.

Sports journalists don't ask athletes for autographs.

And reporters aboard the papal plane don't gush over the pope, receive blessings from him and offer him gifts.

Oh, wait ...

Rosa Flores is a CNN correspondent covering Pope Francis' visit to Cuba and the United States. And she's downright giddy about meeting the pope — and receiving a blessing from him.

Think I'm exaggerating? Check out this on-air exchange between Flores and CNN anchor Poppy Harlow: 

From a transcript of that conversation:

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Our Rosa Flores is live in Havana. She has the extraordinary job of flying with the pope from Rome to Havana. She will be with him on this entire trip. 

Rosa, I have to begin as you tell me about this remarkable experience with showing everyone the photograph of the pope blessing you. What was it like?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it was just such an incredible moment, Poppy. I really have no words to describe it other than he has just so much grace with people. We spent about 45 seconds together. We joked a little bit about actually a friend of his, a priest that I talked to before I got on the plane. And the priest told me, you know, "Give him a hug for me, Rosa. I didn't dare to hug a Holy Father. Let me just put it that way." But then the Holy Father goes on to tell me, Poppy, hear this. He says -- "This father, how dare he come to me two days before the conclave and ask me how I'm doing." He's like, who in their right mind would ask me that. Oh, with just such emotion, Poppy. Everybody around us. I can't wait to show you this video, because everybody just starts laughing. And then I had a tiny token, a small gift for the Holy Father. As you probably know, Mexican Catholics are very devout to Our Lady of Guadalupe, so I brought a little prayer for him, because, of course, I'm Mexican, Mexican-American. So you should see his face. As soon as he sees it, he grabs my prayer card from my hand, he starts kissing it. Oh, I almost went speechless, because I wanted to chat with him and I'm looking at the pope and he is just lighting up, looking at Our Lady of Guadalupe. Then, of course, I asked him for his blessing, and that's the picture that you were able to see. 

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Pope Francis press watch: @JamesMartinSJ kicks off the week with #PapalGoofs

Pope Francis press watch: @JamesMartinSJ kicks off the week with #PapalGoofs

If you are interested in (a) the Jesuits, (b) old-school Catholic liberalism, (c) humor, (d) religion news or (e) all of the above, then you really need to be following Father James Martin on Twitter -- @JamesMartinSJ. You are really going to want to jump on board this week to get his take on the @Pontifex visit to America's elite media corridor between Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Father Martin is well known for his popular books (such as "Between Heaven and Mirth" and "Jesus: A Pilgrimage"), for his analysis work at America magazine and as the official chaplain of the old "Colbert Report" on Comedy Central. He is also, as you would expect, a skilled observer of religion-beat work in the American press.

This weekend, he got an early jump on the papal-coverage tsunami by starting a lively hashtag noting some early mistakes made by print and broadcast journalists in their coverage of the Pope Francis stop in Cuba -- #PapalGoofs. He was very gentle in this series of corrections, providing no URLs pointing directly to examples of these media mistakes. Surely some of these helpful tips were offered as preemptive strikes? 

Obviously, #PapalGoofs refers to goofs that journalists may or may not make while covering the pope, as opposed to goofs that observers believe have been made by the pope. Francis critics will need to start their own hashtag.

We will jump into those tweets in a moment -- Bobby Ross, Jr., style -- but first I want to note that many, or even most, of the mistakes illustrated in the first (let's hope he continues) #PapalGoofs stream are addressed in the online stylebook of the Religion Newswriters Association. You may want to bookmark that right here at

Now, here we go. And the last shall be first:

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Looking ahead: From 'Cuomo Catholicism' to questions about Jeb Bush

Looking ahead: From 'Cuomo Catholicism' to questions about Jeb Bush

It's time for reporters to start preparing themselves for a new “religious issue” if, as expected, Jeb Bush runs for U.S. president.

Bush, a former Episcopalian who converted to wife Columba’s church in 1995, could become the first Roman Catholic to win the Republican nomination. In fact, his party has only chosen two Catholics for vice president and neither won that office (William Miller and Paul Ryan).
By contrast, the Democrats have named three for president (Al Smith, the sole Catholic president John F. Kennedy, and John Kerry) and four for vice president (Edmund Muskie, Sargent Shriver, Geraldine Ferraro, and the only one to serve, incumbent Joseph Biden).

Conservative writer Ira Stoll is right on top of things, pondering on Dec. 29 over at the libertarian site how Bush would handle the “Catholic question." 

For example, a 2013 Bush speech quoted in The Miami Herald said his views on immigration reflect “what my church teaches me.” That puts him to the left of the GOP field on the issue, and such remarks may trouble citizens who agree with President John F. Kennedy’s wariness toward any religious influences in public policy.

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Five for Friday: Zombies and other Godbeat headlines that you may have missed

Five for Friday: Zombies and other Godbeat headlines that you may have missed

I'm on the road today, working on a story and planning to enjoy an authentic Philadelphia Cheesesteak.

Since I'm in a hurry, I thought this would be a good time to provide quick links — with limited commentary — to a handful of stories from my GetReligion guilt folder. 

What better way to start your Friday than with a faith angle on zombies, courtesy of award-winning religion writer Peggy Fletcher Stack of the Salt Lake Tribune?


The lede:

These days, you can see those lumbering, blood-drenched corpses with vacant eyes coming straight at you just about anywhere or anytime — not just at Halloween.
Zombie walks, as they are called, have become the most popular form of the grotesque genre. Folks dress up as the "undead" and stream down the street by the thousands. Such gory gangs periodically invade urban centers from Rio to Rome, Tokyo to Toronto and Sydney to Salt Lake City.
Zombies are even featured in their own wildly popular TV series, AMC’s "Walking Dead," which highlights the dilemma of a group of people facing enemies who had been their friends and neighbors.
Fascination with death and reanimation is not new, of course, but coming to life again has, in the past, been seen as a more, well, hopeful possibility.
This dark and fearsome image reflects a reversal of what Christians believe about resurrection, says John Morehead, a Utah-based scholar of religion and pop culture.

Next up: St. Louis Post-Dispatch Godbeat pro Lilly Fowler profiles a white female pastor who stands out in a predominantly black denomination and has been at the center of the Ferguson protests.

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