Published August 24, 2006
The personal exclusive interview has become a staple in our modern-day media. People like Larry King have made a very lucrative career out of interviewing famous or prominent people. Some televised interviews have actually been groundbreaking since they managed to present well-known people to the public in ways that were both personal and enlightening. In contrast, we have all seen and heard interviews that were trite and superficial. However, a really skilled journalist can ask truly penetrating and valuable questions that reveal the unique and perhaps not widely known side of an individual.
Pope Benedict XVI became what may be the first Pontiff to give such a modern-day interview in preparation for his trip to Bavaria, his home region in Germany. The interview was a fascinating exchange and gave the world an informative glimpse into the man who is now our Holy Father. Pope John Paul II was brilliant with the media, and he engaged them often, especially during his travels. Pope Benedict, however, allowed a German journalist to interview him in the style and manner of modern-day television. I hope that many of you will have a chance to read the entire interview—which was published on the Vatican Web site in an unofficial English translation (if you cannot find that site on your computer—just ask one of the youngsters in your house or in your neighborhood to help you locate it!—and they ought to read it as well).
Some interviewers manage to ask only trite questions that fail to shed light on the really personal traits of an individual. Take, for example, those questions that routinely ask people about their feelings in the face of a great personal tragedy or how they might feel after winning the lottery. We all could easily imagine how people must feel under those circumstances.
But the interviewer asked the Pope about his sense of humor. Yes, Pope Benedict has a wonderful sense of humor, and he said that each day he enjoys thinking about many of the joyful things in life. He told us that although the Vatican can be a secluded place, he enjoys the company of many different visitors and residents. He noted that he will pick and choose his trips in the future in order to focus upon the opportunities to teach the Faith in those places where he will travel. The office of being Supreme Pontiff, he recounted, is demanding and occasionally quite strenuous, but he is deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve the Church in this capacity.
He spoke about the importance and incalculable value of women within the life of the Church and then reflected upon the challenges that the Church faces to recognize the inestimable gifts that women offer to all of the Body of Christ.
He spoke about the state of the Church in Europe and in other places throughout the world and why it is so important to reclaim the Christian heritage of Europe even as the Church witnesses extraordinary growth in other places throughout the world. His interview gave us a very informative picture of the man who governs the Church in the place of Peter the Fisherman.
The questions were honest and interesting, as were the answers that Pope Benedict provided. My only regret was that we have not had such a chance to encounter him on a U.S. televised program. Perhaps if we could find a really insightful and engaging interviewer, he might consider speaking to the hearts of our people as he did to the German viewing audience a week or so ago.