What the Pope’s Visit Means to Texas

Will the U.S. Papal visit make state newspaper front pages? We ask three editors in-the-know.

By Rhonda FanningSeptember 21, 2015 8:03 am| ,

One of the first things we do each morning – in the wee small hours – is check in on the top stories our colleagues are talking about here in Texas, across the country, and around the world. If you spend any time checking out newspapers for several hours each morning, you’ll notice how much inconsistency there is. A dazzling array of factors go into picking each day’s top stories.

Back on the second week of July this year, host David Brown noticed something: while papers across the country had different notions of the top story that week, there was an unusual consensus among the papers in South Texas, nearly every single one included a front page story on a papal visit to South America.

Given how much diversity of interest one typically sees on the front pages of our newspapers, the similarity was nothing if not striking.

Tomorrow, Pope Francis arrives in the U.S at Joint Base Andrews in Washington, D.C. On Wednesday, it’s a White House visit. On Thursday, a speech at the U.S. Capitol. On Friday, he’s in New York at the United Nations. On Saturday, he’s in Philadelphia. This is obviously an important event along what’s called the Acela corridor, the urban backbone of the northeast U.S.

Back in Texas, we’re asking if the story will resonate – and perhaps more to the point – why?

The Standard asked three of Texas’ news decision-makers to help us answer the question: Tim Archuleta, Editor of the Corpus Christi Caller-TimesCarlos Sanchez, Editor of the McAllen Monitor, and Jennifer PreyssFaith Editor at the Victoria Advocate.

Preyss says there are 6 million Catholics in Texas and the Catholic community relates to Pope Francis.

“As a Spanish speaker, as a Latino, I think he resonates among our community,” she says.

Archuleta says they put together a special section on the Pope and had several pages covering his visit in their Sunday issue.

“There’s a little bit of a revival going on among some of the Hispanic followers,” Archuleta says. “They’re moving a little closer toward him.”

In South Texas, public life incorporates more religious elements than in other parts of the country, Sanchez says. Earlier this month, the Pope led Mass via satellite in a McAllen, Tex., church.

“It was a real sense of endorsement by the local faithful that the Pope chose McAllen,” Sanchez says.

Sanchez says part of the reason was because of the work of Sister Norma Pimentel, leader of relief efforts to accommodate the surge of immigrants crossing into Texas in 2014. She has been granted an audience with the Pope and will be on hand during his visit to the White House later this week, Sanchez says.

Preyss says that the Victoria Advocate‘s coverage of the Pope sits well with other religious readers, so stories about him appeal to more than just Catholics.

“He’s such a unifying personality that he almost resonates among Protestants as well,” Preyss says.

Hear more in the audio player above.