VATICAN MEDIA – TIME OF TRANSFORMATIONS
Włodzimierz Rędzioch talks witharchbishop Claudio Maria Celli – the president of the Papal Council for Mass Media
The announcement of the papal presence on Twitter became an occasion for a talk for me about the Vatican media with the man who is responsible for them
WŁODZIMIERZ RĘDZIOCH: - For a long time the Holy See has had ‘traditional’ media: press (‘L’Osservatore Romano’) and radio (Vatican Radio), and then the Press Office which provided information about Vatican to accredited journalists and ‘Centro Televisivo Vaticano’ which prepares video materials for TV stations and private people. What changes are taking place in Vatican media in relation to the today’s technological revolution?
ARCHBISHOP CLAUDIO MARIA CELLI: - The Holy See has always felt the need of communicating with the world. And here it is necessary to emphasize the foresight of Pius XI who – when only he understood the significance of the radio – established the Vatican Radio. His intention was to use new technology to spread the message of the Gospel and Pope’s Magisterium in the most effective way. Since then, the Holy See has always used all available technologies which were perceived as something positive. Today people know that they have means unimaginable so far, but they are also aware of problems and risk connected with it. I want to emphasize that till the pontificate of Paul VI the available media were recognized as the tools of communication. Whereas John Paul II in his apostolic letter of 2005 ‘Il Rapido sviluppo’ (‘A quick development’ – see edit.) emphasized for the first time that new technologies are not only a tool but create a new culture, the ‘digital culture’. We moved from the instrumental point of view of mass media to the vision which I would call the ‘environmental ones’ because media became ‘environment’ in which the man lives.
– A mobile phone is a symbol of this new way of communication…
– A mobile phone in its newest form is a smartphone, that is, a mini-computer which is not limited to answer phone calls. Its operational systems are integrated with many new functions and internet services, thanks to which we can receive current information from all places of our planet. I live in the world of e-mails and twitters myself. Today media became the environment of work, the environment of inter-human relations. One can only think about social portals. Everything is a big revolution, and the last popes are aware of it, therefore in their messages on the World’s Day of Mass Media Benedict XVI encourages to create the ‘service of the digital culture’ and says about pastoral ministry in the world of the digital culture. The pope hopes that on any highways of the cyber world, the contemporary man will be able to meet God.
– When we are spreading the Gospel on Internet, there is a problem of the lack of the personal meeting with another person, and it is very important…
– It is not true, that meeting on Internet is less true. This is an example: through skype we can meet together and this meeting is much richer than the ordinary phone call. It cannot be said that it is virtual – it is true, when I am looking at another person, I am smiling, I am expressing my emotions, etc. and another person is doing the same.
– So, Vatican media are going to become more multimedia?
– Today’s communication must be characterised by multimedia. Therefore through the Papal Council for Mass Media the website www.news.va. was created. This is a multimedia website where, apart from texts, one can obtain an access to information via audio and video files. There is also a website on youtube devoted to information on the Holy Father, thanks to which Internet surfers can watch his activity directly. There is a very essential fact that the multimedia files ‘remain’ in the web, so even those who are not able to follow radio or TV transmissions currently, will have an access to them also in the future.
– On the website www.news.va there are links of all ‘traditional’ Vatican media: Vatican Radio, ‘L’Osservatore Romano, Press Office, Fides Agency and the Vatican TV Centre. It is an attempt to ‘unite’ the Vatican media?
– The website www.news.va – is a ‘container’ of news which are already available in the media of the Holy See about which you mentioned. This website is supposed to be a source of information on Internet about the teaching of the Pope, about the Roman Curia, about the world and the Church in the world. Everybody who enters this website receives much multimedia information. Thanks to CTV all video news concerning the Holy Father can be watched in the computer via streaming. The website www.news.va, although created last year, provides news in five languages (Italian, English, Spanish, French and Portugese). I am glad that so many bishops who visit our Council during the visit ‘ad limina Apostaolorum’ tell us that they begin their day of work with opening the website news.va.
– Is there still a place for press, for the printed word in this situation?
– I think so. The biggest newspapers in the world have two versions – the paper one and online one. Most readers visit their websites but the press did not disappear. Also many Catholic newspapers have websites – people who read press online can broaden some arguments thanks to the links indicating the related articles or deeper analysis.
– Why did Vatican ask Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for granting the internet domain ‘catholic’ in various languages and alphabets?
– We were aware of the programs of the internet development in the international scale and the management of websites in the virtual space. So we decided that the Holy See should care about everything which in the digital space refers to the Catholic world, so that all the things would have their own reference point which would serve as a place of meeting among Catholic institutions, organisations, agencies and believers. Therefore, an application was submitted to suitable international organisations for the participation I the process of granting the internet domain. The new domain will be reserved for institutional subjects connected with the Holy See, thanks to which in the global multimedia web it will be possible to authenticate the Catholic presence, assure the protection of the Catholic message and the teaching of the Holy Father.
– A lot has been said recently about problems in broadcasting news on the Pope and Vatican. Therefore the information was accepted with much interest about nominating an advisor of the State Secretariat for media in the person of Greg Burke (an American man, and a Roman correspondent of the American TV channel Fox News), although in the State Secretariat there is an office which deals with the control of Vatican media. How to interpret this new nomination?
– I have known Greg Burke for many years and I know that he is a serious and competent person. Therefore I accepted the news about his nomination with friendliness and interest, because, undoubtedly the Holy See had serious difficulties in communication.
– With the weakening role of a family and school in the educational process and formation of young people, that is, the future generations, there is a growing influence of any kind of media, which are forming human opinions today. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, the chief of the Vatican Tribunal of Apostolic Signature said recently that ‘teaching the principles of faith, defence of mission of rescuing souls, protection of the truth, obedience to the Church depend on mass media’. Are our pastors – bishops and priests – in your opinion – aware of this special role of Catholic media in today’s mission of the Church?
– I would like to emphasize that the main way of evangelisation are not media but the testimony of the lively community of believers, that is, that even the most sophisticated mass media will not replace the authentic community. Media can promote knowledge about the Christian message but they cannot replace the actual community which helps to live a full Christian life and must have the sacramental dimension.
We encourage churches and local communities to open websites, but the Christian life cannot be reduced to sitting in front of the computer. So, Catholic media are an additional tool to pass on the Good News. We must also pay attention to using their potential without any harm for the educational role of the family and school.
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On 3 December 2012 in the Press Office of the Holy See, there was a press conference, during which journalists were informed that from 12 December this year Benedict XVI would be present on Twitter. It is possible to send questions to the Holy Father concerning faith, at the address #askpontifex. Papal inscriptions are in eight languages, including Polish, on: @pontifex_pl (technical information are at the address blog.twitter.com). Present at the conference, Greg Burke, the Vatican advisor for media, explained the papal initiative as follows: ‘Twitter is a new market of thoughts exchange and the Church must be present there. Its important merit is that fact that it is mainly addressed to young people. The pope writes a lot, speaks publicly and wants to say his important message, therefore I would be personally astonished if he would not be on Twitter’.