Pope connects with public via TV

Pope connects with public via TV

Reaching out

 The German-born pontiff, like his Polish predecessor John Paul, has allowed rare televised interviews with journalists but his direct contact with the general public marked a new step for the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.

While the interaction was heavily controlled by Vatican officials, the broadcast represented an attempt to freshen the image of the Church by the pope, who on Thursday lamented the decline of Christian faith in the western world.

The programme, called “In His Image”, was broadcast on Italian television in mid-afternoon at around the time Christ is traditionally believed to have died on Good Friday and contained seven questions from selected participants around the world.

Following roughly the format of an Italian TV chat show, with a moderator and a panel of experts before a studio audience, the programme included pre-recorded responses from the pope speaking via video link to questioners around the world.

Sitting at his desk, the 84 year-old told the mother of a man who has been in a longterm coma that her son’s soul was still in his body and that he could feel the presence of love.

“The situation, perhaps, is like that of a guitar whose strings have been broken and therefore can no longer play,” the pope told the Italian mother, who spoke beside her son.

To a seven year-old girl in Japan asking him to explain the suffering in her country after the disastrous March 11 earthquake and tsunami which killed some 28,000 people, he pointed to Jesus and said suffering was not in vain.

“We do not have the answers but we know that Jesus suffered as you do,” the pope said.

He also told youth in Iraq that the Church was encouraging dialogue between religions.

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