CBS: Even With Susan Boyle 'Warm-Up Act' Pope Still Couldn't Pull In A Big Enough Crowd

Mark Phillips, CBS Reporting on Pope Benedict's visit to the UK on Friday's CBS Early Show, correspondent Mark Phillips noted how 65,000 people attended a Thursday outdoor mass in Scotland, but observed: "...it was only about a quarter of the size of the crowd Pope John Paul drew to the same park on his visit 28 years ago. And this crowd had a much better warm-up act...TV talent show star...Susan Boyle."

On Thursday, correspondent Richard Roth touted low turnout predictions during the Papal visit: "Some Church officials this morning were already lowering expectations, saying seats were still unsold for several outdoor events."

Phillips described the trip as "A test of whether Pope Benedict can get his message across over the background noise of the Church's child abuse scandal. And that test gets harder as time goes on." He went on to observe "This Pope finds himself with an ironic challenge, he bemoans the weakening role of religion in everyday life, yet it is the Church's very own public struggle with its child-molesting priests that is helping to drive people away."

Phillips concluded his report by highlighting the Pope's critics: "And, of course, the protesters against child abuse, for gay rights and other issues, promise to follow him wherever he goes."

On Thursday, Roth proclaimed the Pontiff's visit was "bound to be shadowed by controversy along with ceremony" and  "courts criticism on a range of issues."

Here is a full transcript of Phillips's September 17 report:
7:10AM ET SEGMENT:

JEFF GLOR: Today is the second day of the Pope's historic visit to Great Britain. And today he meets the leader of the Anglican church. This morning, Pope Benedict went to an outdoor prayer meeting at a school outside London. And CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips is in Twickenham this morning. Mark, good morning.

MARK PHILLIPS: Good morning, Jeff. Well, this is, in fact, turning out to be more than just a Papal visit, it's turning into a test. A test of whether Pope Benedict can get his message across over the background noise of the Church's child abuse scandal. And that test gets harder as time goes on.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Papal Pilgrimage; Pope Benedict XVI Confronts Controversies in UK]

Pope Benedict brought his message to the classroom today, visiting a Catholic school in suburban London. This Pope finds himself with an ironic challenge, he bemoans the weakening role of religion in everyday life, yet it is the Church's very own public struggle with its child-molesting priests that is helping to drive people away.

POPE BENEDICT XVI: The life of faith can only be effectively nurtured when the prevailing atmosphere is one of respectful and affectionate trust.

PHILLIPS: Pope Benedict has proved on this trip that he can still draw a crowd. Yet, impressive though the 65,000-strong open-air mass in Scotland was yesterday, it was only about a quarter of the size of the crowd Pope John Paul drew to the same park on his visit 28 years ago. And this crowd had a much better warm-up act, the former Scottish choir girl turned TV talent show star and internet sensation, Susan Boyle, who sang a medley of her hits. This is being billed as Pope Benedict's most political day of the visit. He meets with the Archbishop of Canterbury, as you said, and he also gives a speech to British parliamentarians. And, of course, the protesters against child abuse, for gay rights and other issues, promise to follow him wherever he goes. Jeff.

GLOR: Alright, Mark Phillips, this morning. Mark, thank you very much.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC