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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Goodbye, Jesuits. Vatican Media Get a New Face and New Boss

Goodbye, Jesuits. Vatican Media Get a New Face and New Boss

SOURCE 

And this with a Jesuit pope, no less. Vatican Radio will stop broadcasting on shortwave. And “L'Osservatore Romano” will also be absorbed into a single “content hub.” Under the command of Monsignor Dario Viganò

Jorge Mario Bergoglio is the first Jesuit in history to sit on the throne of Peter. And yet precisely during his reign the Society of Jesus is at risk of disappearing from the Vatican.

It still has charge of the astronomical observatory. But it has lost command of the press office, the radio network, the television station, the heart of the communication system of the Holy See.

For a few years Fr. Federico Lombardi was at the head of all three of these installations. But one after another they have been taken from him, and no other Jesuit has replaced him.

The new boss of the Vatican media, placed by Pope Francis at the helm of the newly created secretariat for communication, is the Lombard monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò, an expert on cinema, as far as can be imagined from the vision of his predecessor.

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Vatican Radio is the epicenter of the upheaval. Entrusted since its birth, in 1931, to the Society of Jesus, it has brought the Church’s message to the farthest corners of the world.

With shortwave it could and can be listened to even in the most prohibitive places, in Siberia during the Stalin years as today in North Korea or Saudi Arabia.

It broadcasts in 40 languages, and if it were up to Fr. Lombardi it would do so in a few more. He had even been able to create a program in the Hausa language, for the northern area of Nigeria where Boko Haram is raging, with an additional cost of just 10,000 euro per year. But those who held the purse strings in the Vatican forced him to shut it down for budgetary reasons.

Because in effect Vatican Radio costs a great deal. It does not run advertising, its revenues are paltry and its numerous linguistic sections push to about thirty-five the number of journalists on the payroll. The total shortfall fluctuates between twenty and thirty million euro per year.

Well then, Monsignor Viganò doesn’t want to hear about shortwave anymore. He sees it as antiquated and to be dismantled, because it has been supplanted by the web. While instead for Fr. Lombardi it continues to have an essential role “of service to the poor, the oppressed, the minorities, rather than of subjection to the imperative of the maximization of the audience.”

They are two antithetical visions. But the marching route appears to have been marked out already. In Africa, where internet access is sporadic, Viganò has announced an agreement with Facebook through which the pope’s messages will be brought to 44 countries by cell phone, through an app.

By December, in short, Vatican Radio will cease to exist as a self-contained reality. It will be incorporated into a single centralized “content hub,” or in Viganò’s words, into “a single center of multimedia production of texts, images, audiovisuals and radio podcasts in multiple languages,” beneath a single editorial leadership held by Viganò himself today and soon to be handed over to a “task force of journalists,” many of them drawn from Vatican Radio itself and adapted to the new role.

Pope Francis too seems to be heading in this direction, to judge by the audiences that he grants to the stars of the most modern systems of communication. He has received this year, one after another, the magnates of Apple, Google, Instagram, Facebook, Vodafone, none of them empty-handed. And in early December he will receive the leaders of the editorial giants Fortune and Time Warner, who will promote from the Vatican a “New Social Compact” in support of the poor and refugees worldwide, with the participation of firms like IBM, McKinsey, Siemens, WPP.

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And even “L'Osservatore Romano,” in spite of its noble ancestry, will soon end up being gulped down by the “content hub” of Monsignor Viganò.

In resistance, the Vatican newspaper has called to its assistance Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of state, who in effect last May sponsored the relaunching of its women’s supplement, with money from Poste Italiane.

But Viganò has already foretold the newspaper’s future. For official news it will become a minuscule bulletin, for the use of the curia and on sale only at newsstands around the Vatican, while for the more thoughtful articles a slim weekly edition will be launched, as is already done for the languages other than Italian.

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In the photo, Fr. Filippo Soccorsi, a Jesuit and former classmate of Enrico Fermi and of the young people of Via Panisperna, himself a great expert in nuclear physics and a man of profound spiritual life. He directed Vatican Radio from 1934 to 1953, during the pontificates of Pius XI and Pius XII.

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This commentary was published in "L'Espresso" no. 44 of 2016 on newsstands October 18, on the opinion page entitled "Settimo cielo" entrusted to Sandro Magister.

Here is the index of all the previous commentaries:

> "L'Espresso" in seventh heaven

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The project of restructuring the Vatican media in the words of Monsignor Eduardo Viganò:

> Viganò: "Vi racconto il mio primo anno al dicastero per la comunicazione"

And the opposing vision of Fr. Federico Lombardi:

> Padre Lombardi: "I miei 25 anni alla Radio Vaticana"

More details on the removal of the Jesuits from Vatican Radio:

> Chi caccia via i gesuiti dalla Radio Vaticana? Il primo papa gesuita della storia


On the uncertain present and future of “L'Osservatore Romano”:

> Non c'è più religione. A "L'Osservatore Romano" non piacciono i monoteismi

On the audiences granted this year by Pope Francis to the technocrats of Apple, Google, Instagram:

> Welcome, Wealthy. Francis Receives Them With Open Arms

On the audience last October 5 with the leaders of Vodafone:

> Il papa: "La tecnologia incoraggi al dialogo interreligioso"


And on the audience scheduled for early December with the heads of Fortune and Time Warner:

> Fortune/Time Global Forum in Rome with an Audience with His Holiness Pope Francis

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English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.