“Inside the Vatican” – those three words have taken on a multitude of meanings over the past month, and as with all things related to faith, I would expect them to continue to unfold over time.
Just over a month ago, through a mutual and well-respected friend, I met the Founder/Executive Publisher and the COO of Inside the Vatican. For 18 years, Dr. Robert Moynihan (Bob) has been publishing the “little magazine,” as he calls it, that strives to maintain journalistic integrity and independence in order to report on matters of concern to faith and the Catholic Church. In this time, Inside the Vatican has gained the public respect and praise of Bishops, Cardinals, and even Pope John Paul II. It also seems as though both the CIA and KGB subscribe to the magazine to stay up to date on Vatican affairs. Â Quite an impressive list of readers for a “little magazine” that has operated as a non-profit and on a shoestring budget for close to two decades.
Bob, Debbie Tomlinson (the COO), and I met to discuss the transformation of the media industry, the effects the internet and social media have had on his distribution, and what the future holds. Bob, naturally, was torn between a nostalgic love for print and the prospects that the digital revolution bring with it. Ultimately, his genuine love for truth and his calling for disseminating the Word of God led him to fully embrace the idea of virtual distribution – not only for his own publication but for the Catholic Church as a whole.
It was this passion that ultimately prompted Bob to invite me to attend a Symposium for the Foundation for Evangelization through the Media this past weekend. Â The symposium hosted, among others, Archbishop Celli, who is the President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Some of the world’s most successful businessmen and women and professionals throughout the Catholic media world were there as well. The symposium was held in Rome and those of us that attended were given the opportunity to go “Inside the Vatican” – a unique experience to say the least.
It’s difficult to put the experience into words. Eye-opening and life-changing provide a glimpse into the overall experience, but a few key observations may begin to paint a deeper picture.
- I found great hope in the fact that the Holy See is embracing new technologies and taking seriously new media. More than their presence at the event, I was rather surprised and excited to learn how spot-on, and even forward-thinking, a couple of their internal initiatives are. Â They are truly “high impact.”
- It was inspiring to see people of faith gather from around the world to share their time, talent, and resources. As the biggest “nobody” in an otherwise “Who’s Who?” event, I was encouraged by the humility, collaboration, and alignment of mission amongst many of the big names. I had the feeling as we left that the connections that were made would lead to some great things – both in the business world and for the Church.
- I was struck by the pastoral nature of our interactions with Archbishop Celli and the Secretary of the Council, Msgr Paul Tighe, who went out of their way to make us feel welcome and at home in Rome. Msgr. Celli spoke to us like a big brother or old friend, once even punching me in the gut in a playful way as we joked during a break. Msgr. Paul (an Irishman) took a small contingency to dinner at a local pizza house on Sunday night in order to collaborate further. He welcomed us into his private residence for some Irish whiskey afterward. I can only assume that in addition to being holy and personal men, this is a reflection of their role in representing Mother Church. I really did feel at home in Rome – something I didn’t expect.
- I gained significant exposure and insight into how the Vatican works. Â It’s easy to forget that it’s a vast, ancient, and complex organization and that I undoubtedly have very little insight into the reasons why things occur. I went to Rome exacerbated that, among other things, the Vatican website reminds me of 1994. I left with an appreciation for the reality that while many insiders may share my frustration, there are a multitude of factors that I have no insight into that impact their ability to make change. While the Church is undoubtedly a bit too bureaucratic, meeting the people at the Vatican changes your perspective.