I went to bed shortly before midnight on Friday but found myself awake, less than two hours later, once again glued to the television. The lack of news on the Holy Father's condition convinced me nothing was imminent, but still there was the desire to keep a silent vigil for him, which I did throughout most of the night. How fortunate I was to have Fox, CNN and MSNBC for companionship that lonely night, and how grateful I am to those journalists, far too many to number, who quietly reported, with such powerful dignity for days on end, the passing of John Paul II.
"It's not that he played to the camera," said Wyatt Andrews of CBS. "His gift was to play past it. Perhaps, with the exception of Christ himself, no one reached the flock with greater impact." I'm sure the pope would wince at the comparison and ask for CBS to drop the "perhaps," first in deference to the many holy and martyred popes, but mostly in insisting that Christ is the Exception. But that's OK; we know what he meant.
Time's Nancy Gibbs eloquently wrote for many. "The last glimpse of him high above the square became the latest in an album of images he left behind: a kiss on the tarmac in each new city; a smile lit by love and certainty; a white robe stained red by a would-be assassin's bullet, and the public forgiveness that followed; a challenge thrown down before prisoners and presidents, sinners and saints to heed the highest calling of their hearts." That's so good you could frame it.
In their tributes, the (mostly) secular media can most easily grasp the pope's political triumphs bringing his moral witness to bear on the dissolution of Soviet communism. It's telling that they are remembering his idealistic vision of a better world, this being a vision they routinely thought and stated before the Evil Empire's fall was a pipe dream, even a dangerous and belligerent idea. But that's OK, too. What they are now reporting -- and more importantly, how they are now reporting it -- almost demands that celestial music consistently heard in the background of television reports. The world is mourning this profound loss. Journalists are feeling it as well.