November 23, 2014
It’s the real thing
Errors are for learning. Any hard worker in any walk of life knows that. Then there must be some lesson to be learnt by everybody from the absurd developments surrounding Pope Francis’ formal greetings sent in writing to President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and all Argentines to mark National Day, May 25. It’s easy to forget that officials in high places are human beings too. But what better reminder than the two-day ordeal over the veracity of a straightforward letter attributed to the Argentine-born pope to show that the high-ranking can also be prone to messing things up. The pope’s message to Fernández de Kirchner as posted on the president’s website on Thursday initially prompted some speculation about the wording. Was it a veiled message from the pope to the president to be more open to dialogue with her political rivals? But soon it emerged that a Vatican source (the Argentine-born Holy See official Guillermo Karcher) was calling the letter a “collage” and the work of a con artist. The news spread forcing the president’s chief-of-staff to explain that same day with a look of half-embarrassment on his face that the written statement had arrived through the usual Vatican channels. The heat was on Government House because Argentina went to bed thinking that its government had been fooled into thinking that the letter was real. The press coverage showed little mercy with the Fernández de Kirchner administration.
Yet when dawn broke on Friday the joke was on the media because the Vatican confirmed that the message was authentic. The diplomatic mishap, which now clearly looked like the responsibility of the Vatican, was sorted out by the pope in person with a call to Argentina’s Ambassador to the Vatican, Juan Pablo Cafiero. Francis was upset by the press coverage that tried to “generate conflict” where there is none, according to a statement released by Cafiero. Perhaps the lesson for the press is that there’s a limit to what can be read between the lines when it comes to the pope and his place in Argentina’s current affairs. Yet even the most hysterical coverage was based on what at the time was officially declared a counterfeit letter attributed to the pope. The news, and Francis surely knows this, is also covered by humans.
Now that the matter has been settled, it’s best to play it safe. Happy May 25. We all make mistakes.