Video: Pope coverage unprecedented

By Chief foreign affairs correspondent
NBC News
updated 4/5/2005 7:38:23 PM ET 2005-04-05T23:38:23

A global village of many faiths is responding to the life and death of one religious leader.

Cuba's government television is airing special broadcasts about the pope.

"For me it was a big surprise, because I never saw that in my country," says Cuban resident Luisa Alvarez.

Even one of the world's last communist leaders went to Mass, which was carried on Cuban television. Fidel Castro also signed the Vatican's condolence book, calling the pope an "unforgettable friend."

And from Cairo to Amman to Beirut, the Arab world is also seeing unprecedented coverage of the life and death of the pope, thanks to satellite television.

"I have attended many of his gathering for the youth that he did," says one woman in Amman. "And I really like this man. I love him."

"It's sad to see the pope gone, because he was a great man, a man of peace," says Amir Mostafa, a college student in Cairo.

What is the pope's appeal in the Muslim world?

He was a champion of Palestinian rights and a critic of President George W. Bush's war in Iraq.

He is a hero now on Al-Jazeera television.

"After 9/11 he was perceived as sincere in his effort to build bridges with the Muslim world," says Al-Jazeera reporter Mohammed Alami.

But militant Islamic voices are also being heard on al-Qaida Web sites, criticizing Arab television for its expansive coverage of John Paul II. Militant postings criticize what they call the "pig network," Al-Jazeera, for praising the pope, whom they call the "old tyrant."

"There is also this small fringe that is exploiting this sentiment that clearly wants to see a religious war," says Shibley Telhami, a Middle East expert and professor at the University of Maryland.

But for the most part, in death, as in life, the pope is still uniting people around the world.

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