Communications Centralization and Leaks at the Vatican


National Catholic Register, 4 January 2019

COMMENTARY: The leaked letters of Cardinal Ouellet to Cardinal DiNardo suggest that a new era in Vatican media may be dawning, and it’s significant.

The year opened with a major shake-up in Vatican media — and another communications development that will likely be more important.

Jan. 1 was the last day on the job for Greg Burke, the director of the Holy See Press Office, and his deputy, Paloma Garcia Ovejero. Their joint resignations, with only a day’s notice, were clearly intended to signal their dissatisfaction with the direction of Vatican communications.

The immediate cause of their dissatisfaction would seem to be the appointment of Andrea Tornielli Dec. 18 as “editorial director” of the Dicastery for Communication, from which post he is to supervise the editorial direction of all Vatican media.

Tornielli, a longtime Italian “Vaticanista,” has been something of an unofficial spokesman for Pope Francis; his most recent book was a lengthy response to the “testimony” of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, expressing the thinking of the Holy Father’s inner circle, even as the Pope himself has kept quiet.

The vast array of Vatican media — radio, television and news services — have been brought together under the new Dicastery of Communication as part of Pope Francis’ Curial reforms. But the daily newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, and the Holy See Press Office remained outside of effective control of the new dicastery, reporting instead to the Secretariat of State.

On the same day that Tornielli was appointed, a new editor was installed at L’Osservatore Romano, over which Tornielli will have control. It appears that his new remit also includes the Holy See Press Office, an arrangement that neither Burke nor Garcia apparently found acceptable.

All the communications offices of the Vatican are now under a single central authority, guided in their editorial line by a reliable ally of Pope Francis. It would seem then that the Holy Father has more complete control over Vatican communications, with no competing center of authority in the Secretariat of State.

At the same time, though, another significant development suggests that a new era in Vatican media may be dawning, one that gives no particular authority for the capacity to control the flow of information.

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