The BBC has certainly pulled out the stops to cover the Pope’s visit to the Middle East and reports are coming in thick and fast from its numerous reporters on the ground (more on that later). But among the coverage which appeared on BBC television News programmes and on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 24th was an item titled “Pope greets BBC man on plane to Middle East” which readers might find it something of a stretch to define as news.
“Ah, Well the Pope has come to greet the journalists. He said it’s not a press conference; it’s a religious mission that he’s on. But he’s showing..ah…you know….his friendly and approachable side, I suppose you’d say. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of interest in what he will have to say though when he’s in the Holy Land – especially in Jerusalem – because there are so many controversial issues there involving the Israelis and the Palestinians. And the position of Palestinian Christians.
[18 seconds of footage of Bowen talking to the Pope]
So the Pope has just been down and greeted everybody. Everyone got a handshake and a couple of words. I asked him if it was his first time in Jerusalem and he said no; he’d been once before in the Yom Kippur war. That was 1973. And he said ‘I didn’t see a thing’.”
Here is an article about the Pope’s 1973 visit to Jerusalem which appeared in the Israeli media over a year ago, but which apparently was not included in Jeremy Bowen’s pre-flight reading.