Invisible people popping up in Rio
Stop me if you've heard this one before, but the crowds at World Youth Day (WYD) in Rio are much larger than the mainstream media predictions.
Just last week we were hearing that WYD might be a disappointment. Early registrations were lagging behind expectations. The Brazilian government didn’t want to kick in extra funding. Lots of young Brazilians disagreed with the Pope. Those gloomy predictions didn’t even take into account the spectacularly bad weather that has turned outdoor meeting places into bleak acres of ankle-deep mud.
Doom! Disaster! But wait. When the curtain rose on WYD, there were 500,000 enthusiastic young people standing patiently in the rain. When the Pope made his first appearance last night, 1 million people were cheering and waving banners. If this is gloom, let’s have more of it! How many of the world’s celebrities would be disappointed by a crowd of 1 million?
This has been happening for years now. Whenever the Catholic Church organizes a major international event, the media tell us to be prepared for disappointment. Don’t expect large crowds, reporters tell us; don’t expect much enthusiasm. Then a million or so people show up and cheer themselves hoarse.
Why are the mainstream media always, always wrong about these events? They were wrong about World Youth Day in Denver, in Manila, in Rome, in Madrid, and now in Rio. They were wrong about the Jubilee Year in 2000, and wrong about the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin last year. They’ve been wrong about virtually every papal trip abroad. There are always large crowds, and the media experts never see them coming. Why?
Could it be that faithful Catholics are invisible to the secular media? Reporters are familiar with the young people who watch MTV, who love rock concerts, who buy the latest fashions, who go bar-hopping on Friday nights. You’ll see them all in the Style section. But you won’t see the kids who go to Mass, say the Rosary, or slip off to Confession. They won’t be in this week’s newspaper. They’re missing. Maybe they’re in Rio.
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