In My Opinion: Bill Heaney: Reporting the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI

I DON’T want to say, ‘I told you so’, but I did warn you in my last blog – on the 17th of last month – that Pope Benedict XVI might resign this year.

My actual words just a month ago on allmediascotland were : “There’s a possibility that there could be a new Pope in the next few years – or months even. Benedict XVI is 85 at the moment and he might even announce his retirement.”

I was making the point that Scottish newspapers need religious affairs specialists for big stories that might arise in that field.

There can be no bigger religion story than the Holy Father handing in his zucchetto.

So, who will cover this one – and the consistory to follow?

And then the world holding its breath while the cardinals vote awaiting a puff of white smoke from the Vatican announcing the name of Benedict’s successor.

I am in Donegal at the moment, in the back of the back of beyond, but I did manage to catch the BBC Scotland lunchtime news.

Now they were really struggling with this story at the Beeb and appeared to have been caught with their ‘pants down’.

They did come up with words of regret from Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien in Edinburgh while reporting from outside St Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow.

All they could do was reprise on the Papal Visit to Scotland two years ago and talk about what Benedict had for dinner at the Cardinal’s house – haggis, neeps and tatties.

It was obvious that their reporter, Lorna Bicker, wasn’t best pleased with the quality of the fare she had to serve up to the viewers.

And she promised them there would be more and better stuff at tea time in Reporting Scotland. I certainly hope so.

Since Scottish newspapers and TV and radio companies have no religion experts of their own, I would suggest they contact former Glasgow Herald reporter, John Cooney, in Dublin.

He is the oracle on religious affairs in Scotland and Ireland.

Cooney knows the whole Vatican scene – and I would imagine he is available for serious informed comment about this story which will go far beyond the neeps and tatties angle.

Bill Heaney is an award-winning journalist who edited the Lennox Herald for many years and was a special adviser, on the regional Press, at Holyrood and a media adviser at Westminster. He is now retired but continues to operate as a columnist with the Lennox Herald and a pro bono media consultant to a number of churches and charities.