A first-timer at the Vatican press office


Priests wait for the release of a Vatican document outside of the Vatican press office (CNS/Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — In my third week as an intern with Catholic News Service’s Rome bureau, I have many new and exciting experiences to recount. I’ve learned more in this short time than I could have ever imagined, due to the hands-on role I’ve been given.

On my second day with CNS, my internship supervisor and Rome bureau chief, John Thavis, took me to the Vatican Press Office.  There I met Carol Glatz, who works regularly in the the CNS booth and writes about what’s happening at the Vatican.  She and John gave me a quick tour of the office: I saw where the Vatican posts news updates, the press conference room, the newsroom, and the locations of other news outlets’ booths. 

I was struck by how busy the press office was. There was a group of about 10 journalists sitting at a long table down the center of the newsroom, anxious for the release of the “bollettino,” a document released daily by the Vatican. From what I could understand, it seemed the pope was going to be making a statement about the U.S. presidential inauguration, so they were especially excited to hear the message that day.

 I met two French journalists, one of whom, like me, was visiting the press office for the first time, and also like me, speaks very little Italian. We bonded over our struggle to learn the language, but hope that our background in romance languages (I’ve studied Spanish) will be helpful!

Three days later John gave me my first assignment. I was thrilled to have real responsibility so early on. He gave me a statement released by the Vatican from Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers. I wrote a short article on the message, which previewed World Leprosy Day coming up that weekend. The purpose of the day is to make known the devastating effects of the disease, commonly known as Hansen’s, and to combat the prejudices associated with it. Previously, I hadn’t known that the day existed; it was interesting to learn how the church dedicates time to certain causes with the intention of raising awareness and offering thanks to those who serve the suffering.

Pope Benedict XVI shakes hands with a Japanese man with Hansen's disease at the end of the general audience. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Benedict XVI shakes hands with a Japanese man with Hansen's disease at the end of the general audience. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Of my experiences so far, the most memorable was attending the press conference unveiling the Vatican’s YouTube channel, a page that each day offers three short video clips of the pope or major events at the Vatican.

The Vatican Press Office conference room was packed, which, according to many people I talked to, is not a common occurrence. Reporters from all over the world attended, including several from the United States; I had a chance to meet Greg Burke, a Fox News correspondent, after the conference.

While the most of the press conference was conducted in Italian, I was able to grasp the general gist. It was actually quite laid-back; many of the reporters showed their sense of humor in the question-and-answer session. At one point, I found myself laughing just because most everyone else was, even though I didn’t understand the question asked.  Burke asked the one question that I’d been dying to know the answer to: Does the pope actually use the Internet? Unfortunately, there was no clear answer.

The Vatican's YouTube channel features news clips of the pope and major Vatican events. (CNS)

The Vatican's YouTube channel features news clips of the pope and major Vatican events. (CNS)

I perked up when Mons. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, spoke; first, because he spoke in English, and second, because he mentioned one of my classmates from Villanova, Samantha Chin, who interned at his office last fall. Chin came up with the idea of distributing the link to the Vatican’s YouTube page through Facebook, which I think will prove beneficial due to the site’s popularity among young people. It’s important to reach out to young Catholics in a way that they can relate to, and I hope that the use of Facebook and YouTube will strengthen their knowledge and connection to the church.

The next day I was excited to hear from my mom back home that a half-page article about the launch of the YouTube page appeared in our local newspaper — I was actually at the Vatican to witness its launch!

More recently I had the opportunity to listen in on another press conference concerning the pope’s Lenten message. This year, he chose to focus his Lenten reflection on fasting. The main speaker at the press conference was Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program. She was an outstanding speaker, as she so eloquently conveyed the serious crisis of global hunger.

A Haitian woman receives bags of food was donated by CARE and the World Food Program. (CNS photo/Eduardo Munoz, Reuters)

A Haitian woman receives bags of food donated by CARE and the World Food Program. (CNS photo/Eduardo Munoz, Reuters)

Afterwards I compiled a list of statistics released by the World Food Program to use as a sidebar to Cindy Wooden’s article presenting the conference. It was a depressing day, as the statistics were quite shocking. But it was interesting to see how the church is involved in projects to fight world hunger. It also opened my eyes to how blessed I am to have never experienced the pain of hunger, while raising awareness of the tremendous amount of food that is wasted each day.

My first weeks with CNS at the Vatican Press Office have been filled with diverse and memorable experiences. I look forward to reporting on my time here over the upcoming months!

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1 Response to A first-timer at the Vatican press office

  1. Mary Cassabon says:

    I am enjoying your articles and now found you
    here! Aren’t you happy that you chose to take this opportunity? I am so very happy for you. Great chance to meet Greg Burke. We met him in Rome at Michael’s diaconate ordination……..he is a friend of Michael’s. I will continue to follow you through your work, Nicole, and think of you often.
    My best to you. Bless you.
    Mary Cassabon

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