When the Church Makes News

Pontifical Council President Looks at Media Impact of Madrid Youth Day

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By Jose Antonio Varela Vidal

ROME, FEB. 23, 2012 (Zenit.org).- On Tuesday this week Spain’s ambassador to the Holy See, María Jesús Figa López Palop, organized a round table discussion on the topic «Does the Church Still Make News? The Experience of World Youth Day in Madrid.» 

It was presided over by Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

Those present included Italian Vatican newspaper experts Marco Ansaldo (La Repubblica) and Gian Guido Vecchi (Corriere della Sera), as well as three Spaniards: Juan Rubio (director of Vida Nueva) Enric Juliana (assistant editor of La Vanguardia) and Antonio Gallo (coordinator of the social networks of Madrid’s WYD).

All were in agreement that the occasion was an important media event, and that it caught the world’s attention despite some attempts to minimize it. The journalists who were in Madrid narrated the events and words of the Pope, but what is most important is that they had to admit that there is faith in the Church, and a great presence of young people.

«It has been such a special experience that I don’t want them to go,» said a waiter of a café, according to one of those present at the round table. He said this not only because of the amount of sales, but because he had never seen so much joy on the streets. Then he read in a newspaper headline: «Generation Hope,» and he understood everything.

A call

Part of WYD’s success was its involvement with social networks, where young people were invited to participate. 

Apart from the success due to the social networks, the Spanish journalists attributed part of the overall success to the fact that forces were united. On the one hand, those organizing the event, and on the other hand, the Spanish government, which after several years of confrontations with the Church, took a more pacific approach.

Regarding activity on the various social networks, the WYD organizers calculated that there were close to 600 million Tweets, and around 2 million videos watched online. As well there were around 6 million visits to the official Web page. 

One of those at the round table observed that the Church was a «global village» long before the term globalization was invented.

According to those present at the round table, something that really caught the attention of the accredited press (which reached a record figure of 5,000 accredited media from all over the world), was that the Pope came with proposals and not condemnations; with the desire not to reprimand but to explain things to them and make them feel — and cry out — their pride at being young Catholics. This was the news, and the WYD put it on a silver platter, they said.

Archbishop Celli acknowledged that at present there are more issues relating to the Holy See and the media and that the Church has shown the desire to dialogue correctly with the press, because this also helps them. He also said that there is nothing to hide because without the truth the Church would not be able to carry out her main task, which is charity.

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