Pope to record 60-minute TV interview Saturday
3 August 2006
MUNICH – Pope Benedict XVI is to give an unprecedented interview Saturday to four German TV journalists invited to his summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, with the discussion set to air worldwide on August 13.
The German-born pope has already given a couple of one-on-one television interviews in his year-long papacy, but no head of the Catholic church has ever gone before the cameras to handle a panel of questioners for a full hour.
“Nothing like this ever occurred with Pope John Paul II,” recalls Father Eberhard von Gemmingen, head of the German section of Vatican Radio, who is to be one of the four interviewers.
The other journalists will be from two German public television channels, ARD and ZDF, and from Germany’s state-funded worldwide TV service, Deutsche Welle. The interview precedes the pope’s September 9-14 visit to his German homeland.
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the present pope often appeared to lack the easy confidence of a TV personality. But since his election in April last year, he has reached out to the mass media. The panel discussion arose from the pope’s own invitation.
John Paul was poised in his dealings with the media and crowds – von Gemmingen describes him as a “genius with the media” – but he never gave long interviews on TV: he did answer questions by journalists but this was mostly spontaneous and intermittent.
Von Gemmingen, who conducted a Vatican radio interview with the pope last year before his first visit to Germany for a Catholic youth convention in August, says, “Pope Benedict knows that the media can help him speak to millions of people.”
Later, a Polish Jesuit priest interviewed Benedict on television before the pope visited Poland in May.
Thomas Bellut, director of programming at ZDF, who will be another interviewer, calls the event a “world first.”
“I’m already wondering what kind of atmosphere there’ll be in Castel Gandolfo,” he said. “How will the pope react to our questions? Will I have to adapt my interviewing style somehow? Journalistically it’s new territory for me, a fantastic new day.”
Marco Vollmar, a Deutsche Welle spokesman, said the Vatican had asked for the questions to be submitted in advance, but set no unusual conditions during planning for the interview.
Vatican aides did not interfere over the topics the interviewers chose, with planning meetings mainly involving which journalist would be allocated which topic to bring up.
Von Gemmingen believes Benedict and his aides will be relaxed, saying that his radio interview with the pope last year went very smoothly: “Nothing at all had to vetted in advance that time. We just sat down facing one another and he said to me, ‘Got any questions?’”
The first question on Saturday is to be posed by Gerhard Fuchs, director of programming at ARD affiliate Bavarian Television.
“I’ll be asking him about his links to Bavaria and the visit he’s about to make here,” revealed Fuchs in Munich.
Deutsche Welle’s questions will be posed by its director of television, Christoph Lanz.
Cologne-based Deutsche Welle, which transmits by satellite to much of the world, is set to air the interview, dubbed into several languages, at 1715 GMT on Sunday, August 13, at the same time it is aired in Germany by ARD and on shortwave radio by Vatican Radio.
ZDF is to break ranks and air it somewhat later the same evening in Germany.
Subject: German news