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The Press Office of the Holy See 50 years since the Council

"The birth and development of the Vatican Press Office from the Council to nowadays". It is the theme of the round table held November 6 at Rome’s Lumsa University. Upon the 50th anniversary since the opening of the Second Vatican Council the meeting delved into the Press Office of the Holy See, established in 1966 as an evolution of the press service that supported journalists ensuing the works of the council. Participants in the round table included, inter alia, father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press Office, the dean of the Lumsa university Giuseppe Dalla Torre and Joaquìn Navarro-Valls, former director of the Vatican Press Office. Correct and objective information. "The events connected to the sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy in the framework of Church institutions", those linked to Church "administration" and its "economic activity" "have been serious challenges in the development of the Church’s transparency process". Naturally, "the Press Office and other media institutions of the Holy See have had to tackle difficulties and sufferings linked to this process" said father Federico Lombardi during the meeting. As relates to sexual abuse, father Lombardi declared: "media pressure was critical in the decision to reconsider communication approaches on the problem of abuse. Such pressure was concretely experienced in the Press Office, with continuous requests for answers, which was met by a major commitment to provide accurate and objective information on the positions of the Pope, of the regulatory measures adopted by the Congregation for the doctrine of the faith, in order to establish a collaboration with the communication offices of the Bishops’ Conferences involved in this problem, extending to active cooperation in the organization of the conference at the Gregorian university. This major effort was aimed at transforming a defensive stand into a cultural mindset based on prevention". More transparency. Another field identified by father Lombardi, "marked by a growing need for transparency, on which also Church credibility is measured" are the sectors of Church administration and economic activity. "Also on this front – the director pointed out – the Press Office strictly followed the process of Holy See and Vatican City administrative bodies within the international control system, namely, the content of the Moneyvall evaluations report published past July. There is also the need for more objective information on IOR, on Holy See and the Vatican City budgets. The visit of some forty journalists to IOR past June was meant as a sign in this direction, and I hope that more of this kind will follow". Transparency, underlined father Lombardi, "is the sole path. We must follow it with courage for the good and the credibility of the Holy See and of the Church. The press office is crucial in promoting general transparency, and specifically in promoting the transparency of the Church and its institutions. The Press Office is thus the place where the capacity or the incapacity of our institutions to grow in this direction is experienced directly". Competence and honesty. "Religious information is what the world is seeking and expecting. The recent events are not at the centre of the Christian message, nor have they caused a lessening of the interest for the message, rich in ideas and concepts, of Benedict XVI". Joaquín Navarro Valls, director of the Vatican press office for twenty-two years is optimistic on the future of religious information, considering also the news items that have given primary national and international coverage to Church members and bodies. Navarro Valls said that reporting religious news requires the "competence and thruthfulness" of the informant, as well as "appropriate clarity in conveying the source of the message, ensuring that the interlocutor has fully understood it. Another problems regards those tasked with conveying information". Navarro Valls advised young journalists "to be honest, serious, to have a correct idea of what journalism is all about" and to refrain from "propaganda. As regards the idea of teaching journalism in schools, I would be very demanding", he said.

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