The hordes are here

By  Catholic News Service
  • April 15, 2008

You know you're in Washington when you walk into a hotel and everyone around you works for the media. And they're here — in spades. Some 5,000 journalists have signed up to cover the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States and, having nothing else to do but sit and wait for his arrival at Andrews Air Force base here in Washington at 4 p.m., we're keeping busy keeping the U.S. Secret Service busy.

The entire process of keeping the Pope safe and the media in line has created a regular cottage industry in accreditation. I've spent the last 3 months filling out forms on the Internet and sending various folks here — the U.S. bishops conference, Homeland Security, the United Nations, etc. — my photo, over and over.

It turns out sending photos to such august agencies is harder than you'd think. Upon arrival at the media centre for the papal visit at the Westin City Centre, I learned that my photo didn't make it. And neither did the photos of countless others. So we all had our photos duly taken again for the U.S. bishops' conference press card and then trooped down to the Secret Service building a few blocks away to have them taken again for their own card. As for that card, around here, don't leave home without it!

This only took a few hours. While standing in line, we've been amusing ourselves interviewing each other. This afternoon, I've booked interviews with Global TV's Washington bureau and CBC TV Newsworld. Eventually, I'll get to write my own articles.

 Meanwhile, the Pope has been busy on the plane trip over the Atlantic responding to a question that is on all the journalists' lips here: What about the sex abuse crisis?

Associated Press reported that the Pope answered that question from a journalist, saying he found it "deeply shameful" and that he would do everything possible to prevent it from happening again.

He is, of course, talking about the clergy sexual abuse crisis that rocked the Catholic Church in the United States in 2002 and is still making waves to this day. So far $2 billion has been spent on damages to victims of sexual abuse and five dioceses have gone bankrupt. It colours all debate of the Church down here.

To his credit, Benedict addressed it squarely. "We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry," Benedict said in the AP report. "It is more important to have good priests than many priests. We will do everything possible to heal this wound."

No doubt it will not be the last word on the subject — from the Pope or his critics. 

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