Vatican Communications Offices Continue Restructuring
Proceeding according to a four-year plan for restructuring, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, announced December 21 that the Holy See press office’s administrative and human resources branches are to be handed over to the new Secretariat for Communications.
The same day, the Holy See press office announced the appointment of Greg Burke (left) as its deputy director, and of Stefano D’Agostini (center) as director of the Vatican Television Center.
Burke has served as the Secretariat of State’s senior advisor for communication for three years; D’Agostini has spent all of his career within the Vatican Television Center. He replaces Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò (left) who is now prefect of the Secretariat for Communications.
The Pontifical Council for Social Communications will likely be absorbed by the Secretariat for Communications; Archbishop Claudio Celli, its current president who turns 75 — retirement age — in July, is not expected to be replaced. Archbishop Celli’s deputy, Monsignor Paul Tighe, was transferred December 19, 2015 to the Pontifical Council for Culture. He is to be its adjunct secretary, and will be consecrated a bishop. — CNA
Google CEO, Executive in Rare Private Audience with Francis
Eric Schmidt, famous longtime CEO of Google, and Pope Francis met in an unusual private audience at the Vatican on January 15.
The wealthy Schmidt set up a family foundation in 2006 dedicated to the sustainable use of energy and natural resources — a cause that dovetails with Francis’ recent environment-themed encyclical.
A video report on the meeting by Rome Reports showed Schmidt saying to the pontiff, “I want to work with you to make these points …. We will make it happen.” It wasn’t clear what Schmidt was referring to. Francis simply nodded and said, “Pray for me. Don’t forget.”
Schmidt was also accompanied by Jared Cohen, a former US State Department official and head of Google Ideas, a think tank. Cohen asked Francis to write “a note of advice” to his 22-month-old daughter, Zelda, and the Pope obliged.
— Religion News Service
President of Iran to Pope Francis: “Pray for Me”
The first encounter between Pope Francis and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took place January 26 in Rome, in a 40-minute, closed-door meeting.
The president gave Pope Francis a hand-woven rug which came from the holy city of Qom.
In return, Pope Francis gave him a medallion and explained its significance, saying, “It is the figure of Saint Martin, when he was a soldier. He took off his cape to cover a poor person. There is a need for free brotherhood.”
Pope Francis also gave him a copy of his environmental encyclical Laudato Si and joked that it still hadn’t been translated to Farsi.
At the end of the visit, the Pope made a final request: “Please, I ask you to pray for me.” Interestingly, Rouhani requested the same thing from Pope Francis.
— Rome Reports
Kenyan Bishops: The Church is Not a Business
In an attempt to “regulate” religious institutions in the country, the attorney general of Kenya, Githu Muigai, published a list of proposed rules in mid-January.
They require all religious institutions to, among other things, register their branches with the government, provide an updated list of their members, and require that their leaders have a diploma in theology.
In answer, a statement signed by all of Kenya’s Catholic bishops, led by Conference Chairman Bishop Philip Anyolo of Homa Bay, said, “The Catholic Church is not a business, neither it is a non-governmental organization or a civil society. The Catholic Church is a people of God. As such, the state cannot purport to audit the faith of the people of God.”
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has Private Audience with Francis
Pope Francis met briefly January 28 with actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio, who recently won an award for his efforts for environmental protection at the World Economic Forum.
The meeting between the two lasted just 15 minutes, but was enough time for DiCaprio to hand the Pope a book of art from Dutch Renaissance painter Hieronymus Bosch, according to Vatican Radio.
Francis’ gift to the actor was likely a copy of his encyclical Laudato Si and a medal — lately he’s been giving one to presidents and heads of state who have come to the Vatican that bears the image of St. Martin cutting his cloak in two for a poor man. DiCaprio was raised Catholic but currently practices no particular religion. — CNA