When in Rome, the excitement swirling around the election of Pope Francis was contagious, even for those who weren't church-going Roman Catholics. My job was to convey that Eternal City-wide fervor to folks back home through stories, videos, live Webcasts via Skype and broadcasts on WGN Radio, Facebook and Twitter.
According to some readers I went a little overboard. Cynthia Brooke posted a message to Facebook, echoing comedian Bill Maher’s concern about reporters “squealing with delight.”
“It's a legitimate news story,” she wrote, “but the whole world wasn't waiting with baited breath the way you seemed to think when you were reporting from Rome.”
Others welcomed my alleged squeals given the volume of negative news they read about the church.
Other readers took full advantage of having someone on the ground in Vatican City to answer their questions. Bob Karrow of Oak Park asked for a detail that many of us reporters took for granted.
“When the cardinals chat among themselves, what language(s) are they using?” he asked. “Is there a conversational Latin that acts as a lingua franca?”
Italian was the most common lingua franca, Bob. But some cardinals prefer speaking English, Spanish or French to each other. At press briefings, they often presented information in Italian, English and Spanish – with a little French occasionally.
And then there was the million-dollar question about what the election of Pope Francis portends for women, the poor, the church. Will the new pope revise the church’s teaching on birth control? Will he make celibacy optional for priests? Or will the conservative Jesuit become the enforcer that so many expected Pope Benedict XVI to be, albeit with a different style?
From a reporter's perspective, the answers don’t matter. But I have to confess, the prospect of covering the surprises in store during this papacy does elicit a squeal of delight.
To stay in touch, reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter: @TribSeeker.
-- Manya Brachear, Tribune religion reporter
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