By Sister Mary Ann Walsh
There were good-natured laughs when Father Federico Lombardi gives a five-minute answer in Italian and Father Thomas Rosica, head of Salt and Light TV from Canada, translated it into a 30-second English-language statement. They also showed a video clip of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, putting tape with a Vatican seal on the papal quarters, including the elevator to the papal apartment. The pope-emeritus ate a simple breakfast this morning, just like the rest of us, they replied to reporters’ questions.
Don Clemmer, Mar Munoz-Visoso and I met with Father Rosica, who is helping the Vatican primarily with English-speaking media. Father Rosica heads a savvy Catholic TV network based in Toronto that travels widely. He has a solid sense of U.S. media needs – he’s an American – and has urged the Vatican to be as open as possible with media.
The Sala Stampa was crowded and doesn’t even admit most media; visiting media go to a media center set up at the Synod Hall. We haven’t gotten there yet, but understand it is well equipped, though late in getting info to reporters. People working from there attend Vatican briefings by remote TV hook-up, which means they don’t get to ask questions of presenters at the Sala Stampa.
The two-hour power outage this morning slowed us down a bit. We held the morning meeting in a somewhat dark office. A few cardinals had one-on-one interviews today and Cardinal Francis George of Chicago opened his briefing, which was originally arranged for Chicago media, to other media who wanted to attend. We met Sylvia Poggioli of NPR at the Sala Stampa and she was delighted to hear of the opportunity to speak with Cardinal George.
We’re receiving tons of emails from media that are coming here next week. Some reporters who are here now are going back to the U.S. this weekend and then returning next week. It sounds brutal on the body clock.
Internet and TV keep us in contact with home. We’ve enjoyed Msgr. Rick Hilgartner, head of USCCB Secretariat for Divine Worship, on CNN, and got a link to Father Juan Molina, of the USCCB Latin America office, on CNN in Spanish. The poignant photo of an obviously moved Swiss Guard taken by Catholic News Service’s Paul Haring made it far and wide when the New York Times re-tweeted it.
It’s great to see so many old friends from media returning for the papal transition. Cokie Roberts reminded me that we first met on a platform in Boston when Pope John Paul II made his first trip to the United States. Courtney Walsh now of Fox News was a colleague at Christian Science Monitor when I was at the CNS bureau here. Jim Bitterman at CNN recalled other visits to Rome to cover the U.S. bishops. It makes you believe that eventually, all roads do lead to Rome.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh is director of media relations for the USCCB.