BBC’s ‘Vatican expert’ misleads on Pope’s speech at Yad Vashem

One of the later items in the BBC’s extensive coverage of the Pope’s recent visit to the Middle East was an article by the corporation’s “Vatican expert” David Willey titled “Pope Francis cements reputation for deft diplomacy” which appeared on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on May 26th.Willey Pope visit

As was the case in much of the earlier BBC coverage of the visit, in this article too the real reason for the construction of the anti-terrorist fence was concealed from readers and context-free emphasis was placed on the topic of “separation”. In addition, readers were encouraged to make a bizarre – and, some might say, tasteless – comparison between the anti-terrorist fence and the Western Wall.

“Pope Francis’ whistle-stop tour of the Holy Land has provided not only significant religious symbolism, but also some powerful political images.

On successive days he paused to pray in front of two of the most significant walls here, bowing to touch them with his forehead and his hand.

First in Bethlehem, an 8m-high, graffiti-covered concrete section of the barrier that separates the Palestinian territories of the West Bank from Israel; then, in Jerusalem, the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray.” [emphasis added]

Pic Willey art

Towards the end of  his article (which in parts reads more like a PR communique than a report by an impartial BBC journalist), Willey also informed readers that:

“At the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, Pope Francis paid eloquent tribute to the sacrifice made by six million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis all over Europe.”

Leaving aside the fact that, by definition, a “sacrifice made” involves some sort of active personal choice which the millions murdered by the Nazis did not have the opportunity to exercise, the fact is that – contrary to the inaccurate impression Willey gives to BBC audiences – the Pope did not mention the figure six million or the word ‘Jews’ throughout his entire speech at Yad Vashem, the full text of which can be read here

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