Vatican Official Outlines Communications Reform

Three new major departments, cuts without redundancies, and a communications model similar to Disney's are all part of the restructuring plans.

Msgr. Dario Edoardo Vigano, prefect of the Secretariat for Communications.
Msgr. Dario Edoardo Vigano, prefect of the Secretariat for Communications. (photo: Edward Pentin/

The new structure of Vatican communications is gradually taking shape, but it’s not possible yet to give a timeframe for when the restructuring will be implemented, the official in charge of overseeing the reforms has said.

Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, prefect of the Secretariat for the Holy See’s Communications, told reporters last week that personnel considerations “require important attention” in the restructuring, but before any date can be given for announcing the changes, the Pope has to appoint the heads of the new communications departments.

The Italian priest explained that three new departments will be created: “technological”, “theological-pastoral”, and “editorial”. The first, he said, is aimed at integrating the technological competencies of Vatican media in order “to bring a shared vision, make better-performing investments and not double initiatives”. He said there will be a “technological direction” because “we have to pass from a vertical to a horizontal structure.”

The “theological-pastoral” department will take over the work carried out by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, such as preparing papal messages and cementing relations with episcopal conferences. Already, Vatican sources say the Pontifical Council is having its work transferred and absorbed into the Secretariat.

Lastly, he said the “editorial” department will try to harmonize the Vatican’s editorial direction across various media “from the inside out”.   

Msgr. Vigano, who said the reform has accelerated since the Secretariat for Communications was established last June, remarked that the changes are “very clear on paper” and they have been approved by the C9 Council of Cardinals advising the Pope on curial reform.

He said all the proposals made by the previous commission, headed by former BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten of Barnes, were taken on board. But he was keen to stress that the “personal stories” of employees working in Vatican communications are an important consideration. “We have 700 people, 700 families, 700 paths,” he said, adding that any solutions will be presented so they are dealt with fairly and honestly.

The Vatican has to make cuts to its communications operation where a large amount of work is duplicated across several entities. But at the same time it is reluctant to lay off staff, not least because it would run contrary to Pope Francis’ frequent emphasis on people’s right to employment.

The reforms, which Msgr. Vigano said are based on restructuring initially started during the Jubilee of 2000, will end in 2018.

Addressing Church communicators in Madrid, Spain, Jan. 28, the Italian priest said the Vatican is aiming for a "multilingual, multicultural, multimedia and pluralistic" media operation, and reiterated that the aim is to make substantial cuts to its current media budget but without incurring any redundancies.

He also told the audience in Madrid that, in more practical terms, the Vatican will provide “short courses” for cardinals so they can learn how to communicate on television, and even plans to create a papal account on Instagram, a photo-sharing, social networking site. A further goal is to “completely transform” the Vatican’s web portals and search engines.

Msgr. Vigano said the Vatican is looking at a communication model similar to Disney’s, which the Vatican considers to be the most professional and best integrated. By doing so, it hopes to achieve “maximum penetration in a rapidly changing, global communications market.”