News from the Center of the WorldCompassion interviews Padre Ciro Benedettini, C.P. who serves as Deputy Director of the Vatican Press Office.
Would you please give us some information about an ordinary workday at the Vatican Press Office — or is everyday extraordinary?
Deputy Director of the Vatican Press Office
I reach the office shortly after 8 o’clock, and the staff dealing with the press review updates me on any important news from the night before. As soon as the Director arrives, we examine any relevant news together and the daily schedule. I oversee any briefings and pools of journalists who take part in Vatican events, check the midday bulletin with the Papal appointments, receive the staff, and meet any journalists, guests, or diplomats.
At 11.30 a.m., we often have a press conference. At 2.00 p.m. the phone starts to ring with calls from the other side of the globe. Later in the afternoon, I go back home for lunch, but I stay available by mobile phone 24 hours a day. Unexpected events can potentially make any day extraordinary. Anything is enough to create an emergency, even a sentence said by the Pope in an ordinary speech. Then we need to explain, clarify, correct, by voice or by email, sometimes with a press release.
What are some of the most moving events which you have covered in your fourteen years with this Vatican department?
Without doubt, that would be the events that followed the sickness and death of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI.
The day of the funeral (perhaps the greatest media event in Church history) we had 6,600 media operators accredited. The journalists, some in tears, came to us with their condolences, as if we were the Pope’s relatives.
I was moved by the faith of the people of Rome, who welcomed the new Pope, Benedict XVI, with joy, trust and enthusiasm. Two other events come to mind. On the “Day of Forgiveness” (March 12, 2000), the Church asked forgiveness from God and humankind for all the wrongs done by Christians in the past and present. I treasure the memory of the pleading eyes of Pope John Paul II when he was looking at the Crucifix. It seemed that all the sins of the Church were on his shoulders.
On May 7, 2000 at the Colosseum, the Church celebrated the day of the witnesses of faith, revealing an aspect of cruelty that ran through the 20th century, the one with the highest number of Christian martyrs, more than in all previous nineteen centuries together.
When have you traveled with Pope Benedict XVI on his journeys and what impresses you about these events?
As Deputy Director, I accompany the Holy Father on his journeys through Italy. Abroad, I followed John Paul II to Cuba and Nigeria. John Paul II had an enormous charisma in addressing the crowds. I remember his homily at Havana on January 25, 1998 in Revolution Square (until then reserved to the celebrations of the Communist Party.) One million people listened to the Pope, with Fidel Castro in the front row. The homily became a dialogue between the Pope and the crowd, who acted as one person, repeating with one voice the words “freedom” and “Cuba libre,” every time these words were uttered by the Pope.
But every journey of the Pope stirs enthusiasm. I am always surprised by the people’s attention to the words of Benedict XVI, which are always challenging. People desperately seek values, meaning, and sure spiritual guidance. The Pope is a leader who inspires hope, courage, and commitment.
Next: “the power of the Cross in action”
photo of the Holy Father: © John Hix, dreamstime.com