70 years of “Bild”: The Church and Europe’s largest tabloid

“We are the Pope!” – No newspaper has written more succinctly its enthusiasm for the election of Joseph Ratzinger as pope on the front page. The sheet in capital letters and few characters – opinions are still divided about it. It is said that no one reads it, and yet it reaches millions of readers every day – and most recently also TV viewers: On June 24, “Bild”, the tabloid from Springer-Verlag, celebrates its 70th birthday.

Her relationship with the church is sometimes close, sometimes critical – and lately, church representatives have met her more often in court. When the first German pope in 500 years participated in World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005, the newspaper printed a photo mosaic with 10,000 pictures on the front page, showing the pope shortly after the election. Under the motto of “Bild” the headline “We are pope”, the newspaper wanted to show the diversity of people in Germany, as Benedict XVI. welcome to his homeland.

brevity and ambivalence

But even though churchmen like to use the “Bild” newspaper to get their messages out to the people, there is always a certain ambivalence. The “image” of the product thrives on the brevity of the message, even at the expense of complexity or sometimes reduction of facts. “Bild” and the Press Council have not become friends for the past 70 years.

Hamburg’s suffragette Bishop Jaschke, emeritus, nevertheless praised the magazine for its 60th birthday: “The image gives faith and church – not just Catholics – a lot of space: benevolent, sympathetic, often with a human touch”. But if personal rights are violated, or if people are exposed, “then it does not work,” the auxiliary bishop stressed. But interviews in the tabloids give him as a bishop the chance to reach a large number of people. “Of course I just have to talk. But if a churchman has nothing to say clearly, sometimes perhaps in a simplified way, he is uninteresting,” Jaschke stressed.

Cardinal Woelki wins again over the newspaper “Bild”.

Further success of Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki against the newspaper “Bild”: The regional court ruled that a report on a “covering ‘mafia'” in the Archdiocese of Cologne constituted an inadmissible reporting of suspicions.

In the corona pandemic, “Bild” even became the protector of the fundamental right to religious freedom and criticized protectionist measures that also restricted churches. Alexander von Schönburg, member of the “Bild” editor-in-chief and columnist for the conservative Catholic weekly newspaper “Die Tagespost”, discussed for “Bild TV” with the traditional Catholic priest Gerald Goesche, who is often associated: “Harder corona rules in the church than in Whorehouse – Singing is forbidden, but sex is allowed! “

Presumably, the newspaper’s use against corona restrictions and thus not least against the measures taken by the diocesan leadership has pleased one or the other devout Catholic. Is the same group just as fond of the “Bild” articles about Cologne Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki?

Ambiguous relationship with Benedict XVI.

Here, the newspaper apparently wants to write itself into the top of the Enlightenment people in the Catholic Church’s abuse scandal. The “Spotlight” research team led by investigative reporter Nikolaus Harbusch focused in particular on dealing with the treatment in the Archdiocese of Cologne.

As a result, there have already been several temporary injunctions and ongoing main cases, with which Woelki intervenes in the reporting and has already achieved some success. He sees his personal rights violated. Some are talking about a campaign. “Bild” and Harbusch, on the other hand, insist on freedom of the press.

A more ambivalent relationship seems to exist between the tabloid and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. to have held, which, however, was not spared because of his handling of the abuse. As skepticism about the publication grew until the publication of the Munich Abuse Report at the beginning of the year, Benedict announced via “Bild” of all things (“Pope Benedict gives the abuse study the blessing”): “Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI welcomes the work in Munich and the publication of the report. ” Therefore, “he contributed to the reprocessing”. Amazingly, “Bild” became the bearer of the message that emeritus was close to those affected by sexual abuse.

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