Layman breaks Vatican’s ‘stained-glass ceiling’

What happened?

Pope Francis named a layman, Paolo Ruffini, as head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications, a department that encompasses Vatican Radio, television, the Press Office and the publishing house, as well as online media. It is the first time in the 500-year history of the Curia that a lay person has been given a Vatican post equivalent to a prefect. Ruffini, 61, is head of the bishops’ conference television channel, TV2000, and has had decades of experience in broadcast and print media.

What the vaticanisti are saying

Rocco Palmo, writing at his blog Whispers in the Loggia, said Ruffini had shattered “the stained-glass ceiling” at the Vatican. While a handful of lay people and women religious had held number three posts in Vatican departments and St John Paul II had named a layman to lead the Vatican Press Office, no non-ordained person had ever risen to the level of prefect, Palmo explained.

“Put simply, the title represents the pinnacle of executive power in the Church’s central government – and the merged media arm’s massive spread of some 650 employees only amplifies the significance of the choice,” Palmo said.He described the appointment as an “attempted reboot at [the Pope’s] fraught reform” of Vatican media.

Challenges involved absorbing the semi-autonomous daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano and keeping on side his two deputies: Argentine Mgr Lucio Ruiz, who has been running the department until now, and Mgr Dario Viganò, who was ousted as its head after misrepresenting a letter from Benedict XVI in a fiasco that became known as “Lettergate”.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection