Benedict XVI was a great communicator and always showed extraordinary concision and “mental and spiritual lucidity,” according to the director of the Vatican press office.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said this last week at a presentation of a book by the Vice-Director of the Press Office, Angelo Scelso, titled “La penna di Pietro” (Peter’s Pen).
Father Lombardi highlighted three aspects he saw as noteworthy in Benedict’s communication style. In the first place, he spoke of the Pontiff’s three books about Jesus, saying they are a richness for the Church.
In the second place, the spokesman noted the book-length interview “Light of the World. The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times,” carried out by Peter Seewald.
Father Lombardi said the book shows Benedict XVI’s availability and naturalness in an unbounded conversation.
According to the spokesman, the third noteworthy aspect of Benedict XVI’s communication style is an incredible capacity to formulate, in an ordered, systematic and synthetic way, a thought in a brief and concise time.
To illustrate his point, Father Lombardi recalled an anecdote about a video-message they had to record for German television, which was to last three minutes. After explaining to the Holy Father how it had be done and telling him that the recording could be made as many times as necessary, Benedict XVI began to speak, doing so without the least interruption. And then he paused. At that moment, Father Lombardi looked at his watch: 2 minutes, 55 seconds.
Taking up the topic of communication in the Vatican, Father Lombardi acknowledged that “collaboration and coordination between the media and the Holy See can always be improved.”
But, he added, one must “keep in mind that there is a reality of dialogue, of knowledge, of appreciation and collaboration to be able to address the challenges in a fitting way.”
He also explained that Vatican communication is a long and complex process in which many factors enter. The priest said it’s important to seek a balance “of information that is increasingly adequate and transparent,” cultivating also “the correct criteria of privacy and confidentiality.”
Also attending the presentation was Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, who spoke about the importance of Inter Mirifica, the Vatican II document on communication. The prelate called the 50-year-old text a “prophetic document,” saying it the first time an Ecumenical Council was interested in communication from the missionary point of view. He also mentioned the messages of John Paul II and Benedict XVI for the World Days of Social Communications, in which one can see how the Pontiffs were conscious of this new culture. In this connection he mentioned a great challenge that is facing the Church: how to proclaim the Gospel in this context, adding that “it is not necessary to proclaim Jesus through the Internet but on the Internet.”
For his part, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the Vatican spokesman during John Paul II’s pontificate, recalled how the Internet arrived in the realm of the Vatican’s communication: It arose at a dinner with the Polish Pope. Speaking with Navarro-Valls about the Internet, Blessed John Paul II asked, “And are we there?” “No,” answered the spokesman. “And on whom does it depend?” the Pope said. “On you,” he answered. And the next day they began to work on it. “He understood its potential immediately,” said Navarro-Valls.
Scelzo’s book reviews the communicative history of the Vatican, from Inter Mirifica to the present, including the great events of the Jubilee and April of 2005, John Paul II’s death and Benedict XVI’s election, the Vatileaks and the last Conclave.