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Outside looking in

  • 28 August 2023
It can be a disjointing experience, reading about an event you’ve attended and finding more dissonance than resonance in the report. Especially when the experience has been shared with many others, when part of the experience has been a sense of solidarity with them; it can be perplexing to find a report that not only interprets the events differently but has its gaze set in a different direction. Noticing different things.

There can be a flash of outrage. Depending on the event there can be an ‘us and them’ sense that the reporter would not get it because they were not really part of it. Hopefully some humility in my response permeates these initial agitations.

Watching a game of footy my team plays in, my gaze goes in a particular direction. I watch things ‘off the ball’ consistent with my barracking. I can recognise a sports reporter is watching the game differently, noticing and weighing different things.

The way I watched events at World Youth Day several weeks ago was premised on my identity as a Catholic, and a member of a religious order no less. World Youth Day gathers young Catholics from around the world for a week of activities culminating in Mass with the Pope. This edition in Lisbon, Portugal drew 1.5 million to the final Mass. I didn’t watch the events of the week, so much as participate. I was not looking for an angle even as a partook from the context of my own identity.

I felt a disjuncture, then, the dissonance when I read reports that Pope Francis’ regular forays ‘off-script’ were understood as possible signs of fatigue. The Pontiff was apparently tired and so cue speculation about a resignation.


'It has got me thinking about how we experience the things close to us, the things we love and that constitute our identity, and how they are experienced, reported and analysed by those from the "outside". Can I be open to the tension in perspectives?'  

In the moments themselves the Pope’s moves beyond his prepared text seemed to me propelled by great energy. There were some core threads throughout the four main talks he gave, and he warmed to his themes and as he did, so did the crowds. One of his off-script moments was getting 500,000 people gathered to welcome him in the heart of Lisbon to say with him ‘Todos, todos, todos’. His Spanish answer to the question, ‘Who