Secular and Catholic journalists alike received words of welcome and thanks from Pope Francis on Saturday, just days after his election to the See of Peter.
The journalists accredited to the Holy See press office during the papal transition were received in audience at the Paul VI Hall, an event to which they were invited to bring their friends and family.
Chief executive officer for Salt and Light television in Canada, Fr. Thomas Rosica, has been serving as assistant to the director of the Holy See press office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, during this time of papal transition. He described the meeting as “a wonderful moment… I was amazed at the talk, the spontaneity, the gestures, when he puts the text down and he looked up. It was beautiful. I didn’t expect to be so moved.”
Fr. Rosica was among those who personally greeted the Holy Father, describing the meeting as “very warm.”
“There was laughter and tears in my eyes at the same time,” he said.
Referring to his very pastoral approach, the spokesman noted how people have begun calling in with stories about his time as archbishop and cardinal in Argentina. “Very ordinary stories,” he said, “of helping a family, taking care of someone. People are very touched by it.”
Fr. Rosica explained how the majority of his time in Rome during this papal transition has been spent with secular journalists. “They are blown away by the unabashed simplicity, and yet clarity. He talks to people: he’s not talking down to people. [An example is with] the explanation of the name, which is getting a lot of mileage right now.”
“And he brings in personal stories too,” he went on. “He’s not afraid to talk about the Sistine Chapel and the people next to him and the cardinal kissing him.”
“It doesn’t mean this wasn’t happening before,” he continued, “but it is a whole new way of doing the evangelization. People are fascinated.”
Fr. Rosica recounted how one secular journalist asked to go to confession following an address given by Pope Francis. Upon being asked why, the journalist answered: “Well, he just moved me.”
The papacy in the age of communication
Since the advent of journalism and mass media, the manner in which the papacy is perceived globally over the past few decades has taken on a new form. This means, Fr. Rosica explained, that each of Pope Francis’ actions will be under close scrutiny. “Every movement, every gesture is being analyzed – and some of it is very funny. I just spent a little time with somebody trying to explain that, no, they are normal shoes” – referring to how Pope Francis has chosen to wear the simple shoes he wore to the conclave, rather than the signature red shoes of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
As journalists, he went on, “we have to be aware that everything we do and say will be watched; this requires more time and care in how we say it.”
Speaking with regard to Catholic journalists who are still learning to convey the person of Pope Francis through journalistic means, Fr. Rosica explained how there was a danger in setting up “polarities in the way we speak about situations and people in the Church, constantly comparing them, and using categories that are really not the right categories. We use those categories very flippantly.”
“Enjoy this spontaneity, the joy, and the fatherly concern of this man,” Fr. Rosica said, drawing attention to the Pontiff’s statement on Saturday morning: “‘It’s not about the papacy, it’s about Christ.’ [Pope Francis] is going to draw from that rich teaching of Benedict on Jesus Christ, and open it up for us and show us what it looks like.”