A world record: 35,000 new stories on the Pope in 24 hours

April 05, 2005


1. 35,000 new stories on Pope John Paul II in 24 hours
2. Yad Vashem: The pope does not qualify as a Righteous Among the Nations
3. Prof. Arthur Hertzberg: "The Pope did not defy the Nazis in any overt way"
4. A note about yesterday's dispatch and spam
5. "In the Day After His Death, 35,000 New Stories Appeared on Pope John Paul II" (ABC News, April 4, 2005)
6. "Bad Diplomacy: Jewish adulation of the pope does a disservice to the truth," (By Arthur Hertzberg, belief.net, 1999)



[Note by Tom Gross]

Because this email list concerns the way the media works, as well as the Middle East, I attach a further story concerning Pope John Paul II's death:

According to an ABC news report (attached below), in the day after his death, 35,000 new stories appeared on Pope John Paul II.

To put this item in context, this marks a 1000 per cent increase compared to the amount of stories major news media wrote on the re-election of President Bush last November.



In the dispatch yesterday (Arab media coverage of Pope's death infuriates Islamists) I expressed surprise at reports in Ma'ariv, Israel's second highest circulation newspaper, that Yad Vashem was apparently considering making Pope John Paul II a Righteous Gentile.

I attach the following email from the press officer at Yad Vashem:

From: estee.yaari@yadvashem.org.il
To: Tom Gross
Sent: Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Subject: Re: Arab media coverage of Pope's death infuriates Islamists

Dear Tom,

Yad Vashem is not considering naming the Pope a Righteous Among the Nations – the story in Ma'ariv is simply wrong. Yad Vashem would be grateful if you could share this with your readers in your next dispatch.

Here's the clarification we have issued:

Yad Vashem would like to clarify that today’s report in Ma'ariv has no basis in fact. There are stringent criteria for recognizing Righteous Among the Nations foremost among them being that a person has risked his life to save Jews during the Holocaust. The incident described in Ma’ariv, while noble and commendable took place in 1946, after the end of the war, and did not involve saving Jews, and therefore is not relevant to the Righteous Among the Nations designation.


Best regards,



(It should be noted that almost 25 per cent of the inhabitants of the Pope's hometown of Wadowice (pop: 9,000) were Jews. Almost none survived the war -- TG)

The following is extracted from www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/pope/etc/press.html

"Tonight's thoughtful 'Frontline' portrait of John Paul II presents the popular Pope as a man resisting, in the name of the church he leads, many of the century's movements of which he despairs...

Helen Whitney, the producer of 'John Paul II: The Millennial Pope,' begins with sensitively evoked scenes of the Poland in which Karol Wojtyla grew up and the religious traditions that in time drew him to the priesthood. Anti-Semitism was prevalent, and although the young man had many Jewish acquaintances, during the Nazi occupation, says Arthur Hertzberg, a professor of Jewish studies at New York University, 'He did not defy the Nazis in any overt way,' and did nothing to save their victims.

Yet after the war he earned a reputation for helping Jews, and as Pope he has made several gestures like declaring anti-Semitism to be a sin, that suggest a recognition that his church had failed during the Holocaust...

[Further down this email I attach a piece by Arthur Hertzberg.]



Certain webservers blocked yesterday's dispatch (Arab media coverage of Pope's death infuriates Islamists).

Those who failed to receive it include hotmail subscribers who registered their hotmail address in certain regions of the world – but not those hotmail subscribers registered in other geographic areas, who did receive it.

Based on two other dispatches hotmail blocked earlier this year to recipients in particular geographic regions only, I believe that Microsoft's spam technology is automatically blocking these because of a juxtaposition of place of origin, place of receipt, and words used, including the word referring to the party that came to power in Germany in 1933. (Based on past experience with spam technology, were I to mention the name of that party now, this email too may be blocked by hotmail.)

Subscribers who failed to receive yesterday's dispatch and would like it should send me an email.

Please may I remind all subscribers to this email to place * both * the following email addresses on their "Safe List":





35,000 New Stories on Pope After Death
In the Day After His Death, 35,000 New Stories Appeared on Pope John Paul II
ABC News
April 4, 2005


Major news media around the world devoted 10 times as many stories to Pope John Paul II's death as they did to the re-election of President Bush, according to an analysis released Monday.

The Global Language Monitor, which scans the Internet for the use of specific words or phrases using Roman characters, found 35,000 new stories on the pope in the 24 hours after his death Saturday.

That compares with about 3,500 new stories on Bush within a day of his re-election and 1,000 new stories on former President Reagan within a day of his death last year.

The count includes stories at news Web sites as well as printed stories and transcripts of broadcasts found in electronic repositories such as LexisNexis. About 3,000 newspapers and 1,000 broadcasters around the world were tracked.

Paul J.J. Payack, president of Global Language, said the jump reflected the Roman Catholic pontiff's influence.

"He was tied in history, probably more than any pope in contemporary time," Payack said. "Because of his extensive travels, he's well known in many more countries."



Bad Diplomacy
By Arthur Hertzberg
Written in 1999

Jewish adulation of the pope's visit to Israel serves only to make Catholic leaders happy--and does a disservice to the truth


In the mid-1950s, Golda Meir wrote a letter to Pope Pius XII thanking him for his notable efforts to save Jews during the years of the Holocaust. This statement was immediately contested by survivors and by scholars who insisted that this was wildly exaggerated, for Pius XlI's record during the war years had been, in their view, one of indifference relieved by a few occasional positive acts of help and money. The Israeli authorities offered no public answer to these objections. But at the time, I learned through friends in the prime minister's office that the statement was made because Israeli authorities felt such gestures were necessary to persuade the Vatican to recognize the State of Israel.

In recent days, I have encountered a comparable situation. The leaders of the rabbinic bodies of Reform and Conservative Judaism have issued a joint statement hailing the pope's visit to the Holy Land as a profound turning point in Jewish-Catholic relations, an act of reconciliation of historic proportions. When I asked one of the people who drafted this statement for the rabbis whether he really believed that Pope John Paul II would ask the Jews to forgive the church and its wartime pope for their inaction during the Holocaust, this honorable man ruefully agreed that he really did not think so. So I pressed him: Why did you really contribute to the creation of this statement? The answer that I got reminded me of Golda Meir's statement nearly one-half century ago. These religious leaders of American Jews cherish an excellent relationship with the Catholic hierarchy in America. That hierarchy gets upset if popes, past and present, are attacked.

Therefore, to preserve and strengthen the goodwill and friendship that does exist in the United States, it seems permissible to tell less than the whole truth about the record of the Vatican in the 20th century.

A comparable calculus seems to be operating in some of the highest quarters of the Vatican itself. To be sure, the Second Vatican Council declared some 30 years ago that it was wrong, hurtful, and dangerous to continue to blame Jews for the crucifixion of Christ. This has been repeated over and over again by the present pope, but occasionally there is a outbreak from somewhere in the Vatican that suggests that this is only public policy. It is useful to proclaim it in a world of increasing pluralism, but this view has not yet been completely assimilated into the very essence of the faith. As recently as Sunday, March 19, Father Peter Gumpel appeared on "60 Minutes" to insist that Pius XII was a holy man of undoubted saintliness. Father Gumpel is clothed in the full authority of the priest in the Vatican who investigates candidates for sainthood; he was defending Pius XII against his critics.

Later that day, the same Peter Gumpel said to a CBS correspondent, Mark Phillips, "Let us be frank and open about this, as in all the things that I have said. It is a fact that the Jews have killed Christ. This is an undeniable historical fact." But it is precisely this assertion that was denied by Vatican II and has been repeatedly excoriated by John Paul II. Is Father Peter Gumpel asserting that these changes in theology and liturgy are an act of public relations, of interdenominational diplomacy with the Jews, but that "true Catholics" like him know they are diplomatic gestures?

So who is fooling whom? Does anyone on either side of the Jewish-Catholic encounter and debate really believe what the Anti-Defamation League printed very prominently in an advertisement in The New York Times on Sunday, March 19, glorifying Pope John Paul II as remarkable in his unqualified love of Jews and Judaism? Have those who wrote that text for the Anti-Defamation League forgotten, or have they imagined that all their readers have forgotten, that this is the pope who received Kurt Waldheim in state when that dishonorable politician and former staff officer of an SS general who was hanged for his war crimes was president of Austria and boycotted by every other leader in the civilized world?

Had the writers of copy for the ADL not noticed that very recently this pope received Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, and the two managed to suggest together that the insistence by Muslims on building a mosque on land they owned in Nazareth next to the Church of the Annunciation was really an Israeli plot? But, of course, this ADL text too can be explained in whispers as a diplomatic necessity.

But is it not bad diplomacy to produce unbalanced accounts of the past? The last time this was done on a large scale, the authors were the people who put together new editions of the Soviet Encyclopedia when the political line changed. In an instant, Trotsky became a nonperson and Stalin became the source of virtue and goodness. Jewish-Catholic relations, and the reputations of people of great substance, some of whom sinned grievously, are matters too serious for such "diplomatic" games.

I must repeat these days what I have been saying in various contexts for many years: The issue between Jews and Catholics, as each community contemplates the Holocaust, is fundamental: Catholics would like to believe that the church, the mystical body of Christ, is incapable of being wrong, and that the sins of the Holocaust, and everything else in history for which Catholics apologize, were committed through the ages by individual Catholics. Most Jews insist that though individual Christians have behaved heroically, the church as a whole, and its leader during the Holocaust, behaved badly. We can only agree to disagree. We can only learn to act together for the good of humanity in the generations to come.

We must stop talking to each other diplomatically or manipulatively and start telling each other the truth, as each community sees it. Sweet words, which are often not really believed on both sides, will not help us. Jews and Catholics must grow up and enter the era of "tough love."

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.