Pope John Paul the second’s great press while alive helped boost his beatification credentials. His second world war, divided Europe roots meant those who suffered and were opressed elsewhere could identify with the Polish pope. He was a figure who understood his times, and used the media astutely. But for his closest collaborators the pope’s message needed little embellishment;
Joaquin Navarro-Valls was director of the Vatican press office with John Paul II for more than 20 years. How did he do his job with a Pope who was one of the greatest communicators?
“I am convinced that in fact what attracted people and also the media professionals was what he said, because he said it in an extraordinary way,” he says.
The Pope’s message had a strong grip on young people especially, but his message was difficult to accept on some issues, especially contraception, abortion, or pre-marital relations. How does Navarro-Valls explain this apparent contradiction?
“He had a great ability to make virtue sound nice, even when it was difficult. He didn’t make it sound like hard work. He could convince you that you could live a virtuous life faced with the model of a relativist culture.”