Pope to Vatican media professionals: who reads your news?
ROME – Pope Francis challenged Vatican media workers on Monday to essentially justify their continued work, asking how many people actually consume their information in a review of the office that costs the Holy See more than all of its embassies in the world reunited.
Francis visited the Dicastery of Communications, Vatican Radio and the headquarters of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, which is celebrating its 160th anniversary. He seemed to take the opportunity to lay the gauntlet at a busy financial time for the Holy See.
Faced with a severe shortage of pension funds and a projected deficit of $ 61 million this year, Francis ordered pay cuts of 3% to 10% for senior Vatican officials, lay and religious, and suspended seniority bonus for two years.
Francis has promised not to fire anyone to make up for the economic crisis created by COVID-19 and the pandemic-related shutdown of one of the Holy See’s main sources of income, the sale of Vatican Museums tickets.
But in a sort of warning to Vatican communications staff, he opened his unwritten remarks on Monday with a pointed question.
“There are many reasons to be worried about Radio, L’Osservatore, but one that touches my heart: how many people listen to the Radio? How many people read L’Osservatore Romano? Francis asked.
He said their work was good, their offices well organized and organized, but there was a “danger” that their work would not get where it was supposed to. He warned them against falling prey to a “lethal” feature where they perform the moves but don’t achieve anything.
The question of the cost-benefit ratio of the Vatican’s internal media operations has been raised repeatedly, since the communications office consumes more of the Holy See’s annual budget than any other department. According to the latest figures, the Dicastry for Communications had a budget of $ 52.5 million for 2021, or about 20% of the whole.
Its spending is greater than the combined spending of the 10 smaller Vatican departments.
The Vatican has long justified the costs because its communication operations are at the heart of the main mission of the Holy See: to communicate the Catholic faith to the four corners of the globe.
To answer Francis’ question about who consumes Vatican media, the Holy See press office provided some data: Vatican Radio is broadcast by 1000 radio networks around the world. L’Osservatore Romano says it is seen by 21,500 readers every day via its print and online version, although that figure rises to 40,000 if its various language editions distributed by dioceses are taken into account.
Vatican News, the Holy See’s main online news portal, averages around 21 million pageviews per month, although it is not clear whether these are unique pageviews.
The cuts that Francis imposed at all levels sparked a small revolt among Vatican employees. They wrote a dazzling open letter on May 20 expressing their “dismay and deep discouragement” at the pay cuts, lack of overtime and the increase in unpaid workload, which they said did not. do not conform to the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.
They deplored in particular the great disparities in remuneration and benefits, in particular for certain lay executives and outside consultants on whom the Holy See relies heavily to monitor and consolidate its finances.
“We cannot ignore the economic difficulties that families are called upon to face today as a result of the pandemic,” they lamented, asking for a meeting to discuss their concerns.