An emotional and slightly self-indulgent blog post from Rome where I have been taking part in a conference on Catholic media organised by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. There were a couple of fantastic talks which really stuck out: John Thavis of the Catholic News Service gave a talk on Catholic media covering the abuse crisis in America in the 1990s, while Ludwig Ring-Eifel of Katholische Nachrichten Agentur gave an interesting insight into the Catholic press in Germany, explaining that a Catholic press that was subsidised risked not noticing that no one was reading it any more.
Meanwhile, on a panel about the internet, Sandro Magister, Italian über-blogger spoke about how he developed the digital coverage of the Church while an African Dominican gave a fascinating talk about the digital divide between Africa and the developed world, and made us see everything with a bit more perspective. The physical reality of the internet – fibre optic cables – became incredibly relevant.
But I would be lying if I didn’t say the best part of the whole conference was getting to meet the Holy Father today after he addressed the group of around 200 Catholic journalists about the future of Catholic journalism. Sadly the speech doesn’t exist in English yet, but here it is in Italian.
I wasn’t expecting to meet the Pope so I was happy I had packed a black frock but was worried because I thought protocol would require me to wear a mantilla. After a slightly hopeless search I went to see a friend who works with the Order of Malta and miracle of miracles he helped find one I could borrow.
The Holy Father looked tired but was sweet and gentle. Fighting back the tears of excitement and emotion I told him that his visit to Britain had brought joy and hope to people. He asked, “Really?” And then I said: “Yes really.” And he said: “Thank you. God’s blessing [Gottes Segen]“.