To date, the line on Benedict XVI has been that this is a pope of words, often set in contrast with John Paul II’s mastery of gestures and symbols. Joseph Ratzinger is possessed of an extraordinarily refined intellect, and his natural medium is indeed the written word. This is a pope, after all, who had penned some 60 books by the time of his election, to say nothing of countless essays, lectures, journal articles and scholarly monographs.
Does anyone else remember the talk of imagery when Benedict XVI met the representatives of the Muslim community during World Youth Day last year? I wrote:
At WYD 05 in Cologne, the Holy Father met the Muslim representatives in the unique setting of him sitting with a large cross behind him on the wall. The fact that he is now putting in place the personnel to ensure that his gestures become more than just gestures is heartening to see in a world where cartoons can spark so much destruction.
If you're not familiar with it, when Benedict XVI met with the Muslim representatives in Cologne during World Youth Day in 2005, he did so sitting in front of the group. Behind him on the wall was a really big cross. At the time, commentators noted the imagery of the Supreme Pontiff sitting under the Cross of Jesus and telling the locals 'this is how it is'.
John Allen does great on-the-scene reporting, but even he sometimes likes to perpetuate certain stereotypes just to have something to write about when 'the Wordsmith Pope' figures out how to use images.