Pope Francis is a star in the German media and Tebartz-van Elst is the bad guy. In a DW interview, Catholic media expert Christian Klenk warns the media not to exaggerate the case of the bishop of Limburg.
DW: What role does the pope currently play in the German media?
Christian Klenk: Since the papal conclave we could see that the pope is pictured in very euphoric manner in the media, actually solely positive.
Why is that?
Among other things this can be explained by his unusual manner, he is getting rid of familiar conventions, he brings in a new style, he does not live in the Apostolic Palace and he drives a small car - these are all gestures that show how he sees his post and how he sees the Catholic Church.
Does this pope work as a vehicle for the expectations people have of the Catholic Church?
Yes, he puts out these expectations himself when he announces that the church has to change. The expectations are not just projected onto him because he is charismatic, but because he practically says that things have to change.
How has this been received?
From a German point view, very well. Here in Germany, the majority of Catholics is demanding reforms that the new pope has now proposed - even if no one knows about the outcome. Most media outlets represent the position that the Catholic Church has to reform itself, both its appearance - plainer, less pompous - and regarding the contents - regarding sexual morals, address the issue of homosexuality and the role of women.
Are the events around the bishop of Limburg they a touchstone for the new pope?
Yes, this positive tailwind we've had in the German media about the new pope is already thwarted by the events in Limburg. The media likes to illustrate the contrasts between the bishop with his luxurious episcopal see and on the other hand the pope who prefers a simple lifestyle and who likes to emphasize simplicity. This contrast is demonstrated in the coverage.
Do you think this is excessive?
That is how the media work, they look for opposites, develop them and juxtapose good and evil. Another question is if the media coverage of the Bishop of Limburg is exaggerated.
There I would differentiate: it was certainly necessary to reveal the actual building costs of the episcopal see. The facts would still be unknown if the journalists had not continued to pursue the issue. But now it is getting almost too much. The media is prone to hype topics like this one and to frequently release breaking news even if there is nothing new happening. Once again, the coverage is certainly important but you have to make sure that it is not being exaggerated.
Dr. Christian Klenk holds a diploma in journalism and works as media researcher at the Catholic University of Eichstädt-Ingolstadt. Among other things his research projects are about the relations of the church and the media.