Inside the Vatican


“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 Executive Publisher and the COO of Inside the Vatican.  For 18 years Bob, the founder and executive publisher has been publishing the “little magazine”, as he call 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.  Quite an impressive list of readers for a “little magazine” that has operated as a non-profit and on a shoe string budget.

Bob, Debbie, 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 which ultimately prompted Bob to invite me to attend a Symposium for the Foundation for Evangelization through the Media this past weekend.  The symposium hosted, among others, Archbishop Celli, the President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, some of the worlds must successful business men and women, and professionals throughout the Catholic media world.  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.  Eyeopening and life changing may 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 serious the 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.  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 as 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 and welcomed us into his private residence for some Irish Whisky afterwards.  I can only assume that in addition to being holy and personal men, this is a reflection of their role 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.  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 exacerbated that, among other things, the vatican website reminds me of 1994 and 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 may impact their ability to make change.  While the Church is undoubtedly a bit too bureaucratic, meeting the people at the Vatican changes your perspective.
We stayed in the Santa Marta, the new residence where the College of Cardinals stayed during the conclave to elect Pope Benedict.  I was impressed by the simplicity of the room and entire hotel.
In addition to the bed, there was a simple chair and simple desk.  

This is the view from the window of my room.  I literally could have thrown a football out the window and hit St. Peter’s basilica.  Right to the left of the scaffolding is the private door into the basilica
where I’m told the Pope and Cardinals enter for ceremonial Masses.
We had dinner on Saturday night, after a private tour of the Sistine Chapel, inside the storage area of the Vatican Museum.  Yes, we were in the midst of ancient ruins – can you see some of them in the background?

Sunday Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Celli in the crypt below  St. Peter’s.  The glass doors behind are provide a window into St. Peter’s tomb.

After mass we were able to pray in front of the tomb of Pope John Paul II the Great.  It was my sister’s birthday, so in addition to praying for Teresa and the kids, I asked for JPII to intercede for her.

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