Pope Benedict XVI made papal history today when he appeared on Italian state television to engage in a question and answer session with the public in honor of Good Friday, having previously only granted televised interviews to journalists. While the segment, as Reuters points out, was modeled on an Italian chat show--with a moderator, panel of experts, studio audience, and the pope communicating with questioners around the world on a split screen--it wasn't exactly hard-hitting TV. The Vatican chose seven questions from thousands of submissions and pre-recorded the show last week (we also imagine Italian chat show sets aren't normally as ornate as the Vatican library, pictured above).
During the Q&A session, the pope told a 7-year-old Japanese girl that her suffering in the wake of the recent earthquake and tsunami "wasn't in vain, but behind it was a good plan, a plan of love." He counseled a Muslim woman from the war-torn Ivory Coast and Christians in Iraq, and told an Italian woman whose son is in a vegetative state that his situation was similar to a guitar with broken strings. "The instrument of the body is fragile like that ... and the soul cannot play, so to speak, but remains present," he said. The BBC points out that while there were no questions about priestly sex scandals, the Vatican probably views the show "as a first step in their overall effort to be more accountable and transparent" in the aftermath of the abuse scandals. So what's the next step? A live chat on Twitter? If the Vatican is just getting around to experimenting on television, we probably shouldn't expect one anytime soon.