Even in one short article, BBC's "Rome correspondent" gets it wrong, as have so many others when reporting about the Vatican and the papacy.
It seems it is impossible for such correspondents to find even the most basic information about the thing they are supposed to be reporting about with at least some degree of accuracy.
Not to pick on or single out one person -- but it's a short piece and all I have time for -- Michael Hirst's article is but a modest example of this genre, i.e., journalists who seem to know nothing more about the Catholic Church than the average person on the street, and who make little effort to be accurate, and who still collect a salary for such "reporting." He seems like a nice chap, just misplaced in his work:
Professional nappy-changer, former golfer, journalist focusing on Vatican affairs for BBC news website.
Is this the best the BBC can do? I mean, either Mr Hirst should "focus" a bit more, or perhaps go back to focusing on...golf?
Hirst: "Vatican staff have been preparing the Sistine Chapel, where the conclave will take place, installing the two stoves that will produce white smoke from burnt ballot papers when a new pope is elected."
No. One stove is for black smoke (burned ballots, no new Pope elected); and one is for creating the white smoke to indicate that a new Pope has been elected. It's not that difficult:
"There will be two stoves in the chapel, one in which the cardinals' ballots will be burned and another in which the smoke used to make a signal will be created, with the help of additional chemicals."
Hirst: "The last election in 2005 took three days..."
No. It took just over 24 hours. The Cardinals entered the conclave on Monday afternoon, April 18th, 2005, and elected Benedict XVI on Tuesday afternoon, April 19th, 2005:
"On 19 April 2005, Ratzinger was elected as the successor to Pope John Paul II on the second day of the papal conclave after four ballots."
And being 85 years of age is not a disease.
Hirst: "The 85-year-old blamed his failing health for his inability to carry on."
No. According to Benedict XVI, it's age -- energy levels and lack of strength -- not "health":
"However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. "
Unless Hull has access to inside information regarding the health of the retired Pope, he cannot say it was due to reasons of "failing health." The Holy Father has been getting thinner over the last year or so, but unless Hirst knows something that no one else seems to know, then he is simply wrong. The Vatican confirmed that it was not due to "failing health":