It’s a bit of a head-scratcher. Just over a week ago, three abuse survivors met Pope Francis, and then gave an important press conference reflecting on the meeting. Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton, and José Andres Murillo said Pope Francis had admitted he was “part of the problem”, and had pledged to do more in future. The news was widely covered – but not by Vatican media. The weekly Spanish-language edition of L’Osservatore Romano that came out last Friday had a piece that took note of the weekend meetings and briefly mentioned the Wednesday press conference. Otherwise, crickets.
Sources inside the Secretariat for Communications, which oversees most of the Vatican’s media and public relations apparatus, including the new Vatican News web portal, suggest the decision not to cover the event -which received worldwide press attention – was in keeping with the Holy Father’s wishes that the meetings be private and reserved. The acting head of the Secretariat for Communications, Mgr Lucio Ruiz, did not respond to repeated requests for a statement, while the Press Office of the Holy See declined to comment.
“It’s a bit surprising,” the Wall Street Journal’s Vatican correspondent, Francis X Rocca, told the Catholic Herald. “After the Pope’s dramatic gesture, and given his willingness to field tough questions, it’s puzzling that his own media apparatus would keep silent on such a major event and an important topic.” Rocca saw both sides of the question. “I can understand the desire to exercise discretion, so as not to be seen to ‘spin’ the event,” he said. On the other hand, the argument could be made that a brief statement acknowledging the presser might have shown the Pope’s willingness to face criticism; it was a judgment call.
Another veteran vaticanista, Andrea Gagliarducci of the Catholic News Agency, told the Catholic Herald he thinks the decision makes sense in context. “I do not think the Vatican had to comment about the press conference Cruz, Hamilton and Murillo gave,” Gagliarducci said. “This was a personal presser based on what they wanted to say about a personal meeting with the Pope. Usually, the Vatican does not make any statement nor comments on personal decisions,” he added.
Gagliarducci went on to note that substantive remarks ahead of the meeting with Chilean bishops scheduled for next week might have been less than prudent. “We must consider that the Chilean Bishops are coming to Rome next week, and I do not think there will be any official statement or decision before the meeting,” he said.
The next question, as I noted yesterday, is whether Cardinal Errázuriz will be present at the meeting. How to cover that story will also be an interesting question for Vatican media.