For a few weeks last April, Rome was once again the center of the world. Day by day the news from the Holy See was disseminated urbi et orbi, and the global media had no choice but to tune in. The death and funeral of Pope John Paul II, followed by the election of his successor, Benedict XVI, have changed the Catholic Church and its place in the world.

The global media, which had waited long and prepared thoroughly for the death of the aged pontiff, was still taken by surprise by the unexpected scale and intensity of the mourning. Some three million people—most of them young—made the pilgrimage to Rome to pay their last respects, including most of the world’s leaders, and more than two billion watched the funeral on television—the largest audience in history. It was the best possible reply to Stalin’s question: “How many divisions has the...


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