COMMENTS: Fancy Dress Rehearsals

There was a split decision about how to preview Pope Benedict XVI's impending visit to Washington DC and New York City. The Catholic Church's pedophile priests' sex abuse scandal, with "5,000 victims and counting, cost $2bn in legal fees," is likely to be addressed by the pontiff, predicted ABC's Dan Harris (embargoed link), since it is a major factor in the closing of parishes and the shortage of clergy. Harris introduced some findings from his network's opinion poll of Roman Catholics in this country, finding a popular Pope but an out-of-touch leadership. Weekly attendance at mass is high--41% for Americans compared with 10% for European Catholics-- and "the fastest growing part of the church" is represented by the Hispanic faithful.

CBS's Bob Orr and NBC's Richard Engel focused on security as the Secret Service offered journalists a Popemobile show-&-tell. In his most recent videotape message, Osama bin Laden accused His Holiness of "leading a new crusade against Islam," CBS' Orr reminded us, so fancy-dress drills against Saladin's possible counterattack feature an agent dressing up in Papal robes "to give fellow agents an actual feel of the garment in case they have to physically whisk him to safety." On NBC's In Depth Engel checked out the pimped-out Popemobile itself, calling it a "modified two-door Mercedes with a bulletproof glass viewing area in the back."


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