Pope talks to public in rare TV broadcast
By Catherine Hornby
ROME (Reuters) - Pope Benedict took questions from a child in Japan, a Muslim woman in Ivory Coast and a mother caring for a son in a permanent coma in his first televised dialogue with the public, broadcast on Good Friday.
The German-born pontiff, like his Polish predecessor John Paul, has allowed rare televised interviews with journalists but his contact with the public marked a new step for the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.
The interaction was shown on Italian television in mid afternoon at around the time Christ is believed to have died. Later the pope attended the traditional Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession to commemorate Christ's crucifixion and death.
Though heavily controlled by Vatican officials, the television broadcast, called "In His Image," represented an attempt to freshen the image of the Church by the pope, who has lamented the decline of Christian faith in the Western world.
Following roughly the format of an Italian TV chat show, with a moderator and a panel of experts before a studio audience, it included pre-recorded responses from the 84-year old pope speaking via video link.
Sitting at his desk, the pope told the mother of a man who has been in a coma for a long time that her son's soul was still in his body and that he could feel the presence of love.
"The situation, perhaps, is like that of a guitar whose strings have been broken and therefore can no longer play," the pope told the Italian mother, who spoke beside her son.