VATICAN INSIDER: THE VATICAN COMMUNICATIONS REFORMATION: PART II – AN UPDATE FROM SANT’EGIDIO (OR, HOW POPE FRANCIS CELEBRATED THE ANNIVERSARY OF HIS ELECTION)

Once again, a very beautiful Friday morning, a day that now ends the work week and starts the weekend on a special note for EWTN personnel for whom Msgr. Anthony Figueiredo celebrates weekly Mass at the altar of Pope St. John XXIII in St. Peter’s Basilica.

EWTN’s German bureau chief, Martin Rothweiler is in Rome and he did the reading today from the Book of Wisdom. Here are a few photos:

After Mass, Msgr. Anthony and I met up with Ben Crockett (who is helping us with some very special projects) in the atrium of the basilica. As soon as I saw these workmen preparing the tapestry for Monday’s Episcopal ordinations by the Holy Father in the basilica, I knew I had to take some “behind the scenes” photos and do a Facebook Live.

I hope the start of your Friday and end of your workweek was as beautiful as ours!

By the way, Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all the Irish – and Irish wannabees! Special wishes and prayers to all the faithful of the new church for American and English-speaking Catholics in Rome – St. Patrick’s! Come see us Sunday on Via Boncompagni 31 and wear green!

VATICAN INSIDER: THE VATICAN COMMUNICATIONS REFORMATION: PART II

My guest again this week on Vatican Insider is Chris Altieri, a former colleague at Vatican Radio. As I noted earlier, you are probably familiar with his name because you surely read Chris’ many stories on the webpages of (what was once) English Vatican Radio and heard his voice as he did wonderful commentaries for papal Masses and other events.

This weekend, in the second of two parts, we look at the reform of Vatican communications – what has happened so far, the low morale in the Vatican, what reform means for Vatican personnel in the communications area and what it means for people around the world who listen to a greatly changed Vatican radio – except we are not supposed to use that name anymore!

Don’t leave town just yet because at the end of next week you will hear the stunning conclusion to the odyssey of the reform of Vatican communications!

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. Outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00am (ET). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

AN UPDATE FROM SANT EGIDIO (OR, HOW POPE FRANCIS CELEBRATED THE ANNIVERSARY OF HIS ELECTION)

An email I received today from the Sant’Egidio Community that Pope Francis visited last Sunday to mark its 50th anniversary, had a delightful surprise: It seems that on Tuesday, March 13, Pope Francis welcomed to the Santa Marta residence a group of refugees coming from the Horn of Africa and from Syria, arriving Italy through the Sant’Egidio Humanitarian Corridors. There were also some ill people who are being hosted by the community as well as community president, Marco Impagliazzo.

Pope Francis listened carefully to the different and sorrowful experiences refugees had to face before arriving safe in Italy, according to the email. Francis asked extensively about the operation mode of the Humanitarian Corridors. He remembered his personal intervention in aid of the refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos, and re-stated the urgency to develop this kind of corridor which has welcomed and integrated more than 1,000 in Italy and Europe.

During his recent visit to Santa Maria in Trastevere, Pope Francis said: “Today, more than ever, carry on audaciously on this path … Carry on opening new humanitarian corridors for the refugees of war and hunger. The poor are your treasure!”

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ARE THESE THE CHANGES IN VATICAN COMMUNICATIONS?

The Italian news agency ANSA reported this morning that, according to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, Pope Francis’s audiences for Thursday have been cancelled because the 79-year-old pontiff has a high temperature. Fr. Lombardi said the pope had a “slight indisposition, nothing serious” adding that, as usual, Francis celebrated Mass at the Santa Marta residence where he lives inside the Vatican on Thursday morning. “For the moment he is resting,” Lombardi said. “He usually recovers quite quickly. Anyway, we’ll see.”

Most of my day has been outside of the office, including getting ready to be with Jim and Joy AT HOME this evening. Be sure to tune in!

The book with Pope Francis’ answers to 31 questions from children around the world was presented this morning in its Italian version, one of the 16 languages in which the book has been published. The Italian-language book is called Before the World, Love. The English version is set to debut March 1 and is titled Dear Pope Francis. Prepared by Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro, the book presents 31 letters and drawings selected from those presented by 296 students from Jesuit-run schools and institutions in 26 countries. A percentage of the sales will be given to the JRS, Jesuit Refugee Service. (More about this, along with a few photos, tomorrow).

AMORE

ARE THESE THE CHANGES IN VATICAN COMMUNICATIONS?

This morning I read, and then posted, Vatican’ Radio’s report by Philippa Hitchens entitled, “Father Lombardi’s lasting legacy at Vatican Radio.”

The piece starts: Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi steps down as Director General of Vatican Radio at the end of February, in the context of a major overhaul of the Holy See’s media and communications organisations.

When I got to the final paragraph, it sounded like what was not going to last was Vatican Radio itself, at least not the name! After 85 years! A name it has had since day one – February 12, 1931.

Here is what that paragraph says: Fr Lombardi’s departure from the Palazzo Pio headquarters marks the end of an era for the Jesuits too, whom Pope Pius XI entrusted with the running of the Radio back in 1931. Pope Francis has made clear he wants the order to continue working in communications, though it’s not yet clear how that service may take shape. The name – Vatican Radio – will also cease to exist in the coming months, as it becomes more closely incorporated into a combined output of TV, newspaper, web and social media production. What Fr Lombardi says he hopes will remain at the heart of the new media operation is the dedication of those committed to their mission of sharing the Good News with those on the margins of today’s ‘throwaway culture’. 

In addition to this bombshell piece of news, I read this at the end of today’s edition of VIS (Vatican Information Service): NOTICE TO VIS SUBSCRIBERS Vatican City, 25 February 2016 (VIS) – From Tuesday 1 March 2016, the Vatican Information Service newsletter will not be transmitted …

We’ve all know there would be some changes in the communications structure since last June when the Pope instituted the Secretariat for Communications. A certain amount of streamlining was expected, although indications were given that taking care of personnel working for the Vatican’s communication offices (Vatican Radio, CTV, Press Office, VIS, L’Osservatore Romano, Pontifical Council for Social Communications) was a high priority.

To a person, the people I have spoken to today, when I told them of the news that the name “Vatican Radio” would soon disappear told me I was mistaken, that could not happen, I had heard or read the story incorrectly, no one would change history, what I was saying had no sense, and so on.

I am still stunned by this announcement. To be honest, I first heard Philippa’s account on Vatican Radio this morning as I was preparing for an appointment, Absolutely sure I had misunderstood her final words, I went online to find the story – there it was, I had no misheard at all.

My heartbeat quickens as I wonder what is down the road for Vatican communications after learning of such a shocking change for the historic Vatican Radio. What will disappear next? What is the rationale behind such changes, behind a “major overhaul”? Perhaps this is what interests me (and others) most.

Here is the link to the entire Philippa Hitchen story: http://www.news.va/en/news/fr-lombardi-reflects-on-lasting-legacy-of-vatican