New Vatican comms assistant says media is meant to evangelize

New Vatican comms assistant says media is meant to evangelize

The road leading to St. Peter's Square at the Vatican looks deserted, in Rome, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020. (Credit: Mauro Scrobogna/LaPresse via AP.)

For the new ecclesiastical assistant for the Vatican communications department, the job, and that of all who work in Church media, is fundamentally about two things: truth and evangelization.

ROME – For Father Luigi Maria Epicoco, the new ecclesiastical assistance for the Vatican communications department, his job, and that of all who work in Church media, is fundamentally about two things: truth and evangelization.

“I believe that the greatest testimony right now is having a great love for the truth and not just for the speed of the news,” Epicoco told Crux in an interview, insisting that Church communications also ought to serve the cause of evangelization.

“To evangelize is not simply transmitting information, but creating the possibility of encounter, of bonds, of exchange, and of enrichment,” he said.

Last month Epicoco was named “ecclesiastical assistant” to the Vatican communications department, and at the same time it was also announced that he would be a regular columnist for the Vatican’s newspaper, L‘Osservatore Romano.

Epicoco is the author of a book titled Qualcuno a cui guardare. Per una spiritualità della testimonianza (“Someone to Look to: For a Spirituality of Witness”), that Pope Francis read and liked so much that he gifted it to members of the Roman Curia during his pre-Christmas address in 2019.

Among other things, Epicoco teaches philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and is director of the San Carlo Borromeo university residence in L’Aquila.

As a priest of the L’Aquila archdiocese, Epicoco saw first-hand the impact of the city’s deadly earthquake in 2009, which rated 5.9 on the Richter scale and claimed at least 308 lives, making it the deadliest earthquake Italy had seen in 30 years.

In 2016 another major earthquake hit the town of Amatrice, also in central Italy, claiming the lives of 298 people. Pope Francis later visited the town to show solidarity with the residents and their families.

In his interview with Crux, Epicoco discussed the impact the earthquake had on his own life, as well as his understanding of Church communications and his vision for his new role in the Vatican communications department.

Crux’s interview with Father Luigi Maria Epicoco follows:

Crux: You were recently named “ecclesiastical assistant” to the Department for Communications and as a columnist for L’Osservatore Romano. What does this role involve? What will your responsibilities be?

Epicoco: The Holy Father wanted the Communications Department to also be equipped with a priestly point of reference who can help so that the relationships and work of more than 600 employees can proceed in communion and Christian witness. I begin this assignment by trying to put myself at the service of all and keeping communion and synergy at heart.

The department has many of the most qualified professionals, so it can be deduced that my presence does not have to do with the specific skills of each one but is rather in the human and Christian sphere. Added to this is the role as a columnist at Osservatore Romano, whose task is simply to be able to offer reflections that accompany the chronicle of the life of the Church by putting it in dialogue, as Osservatore already does, with the world and with different cultures.

How do you see the task of communication in the Church today? What do you think the task of Church communications ought to be?

To communicate is to create communion. The Gospel is understood only in relationships, and communication is what most helps to create, to strengthen, and to deepen in the great alphabet of relationships. To evangelize is not simply transmitting information, but creating the possibility of encounter, of bonds, of exchange, and of enrichment.

What does it mean for you to evangelize through modern forms of communication?

I believe that the greatest testimony right now is having a great love for the truth and not just for the speed of the news. And the truth requires patience, thought, and the ability stay in reality, “on the road,” as Pope Francis recently asked.

In 2014, the pope gave your book to the members of the Roman Curia as a gift. Have you been able to speak with the pope about this book and why he liked it so much? What do you think moved him so much about the book?

You would need to ask Pope Francis this. I can only guess that what struck him most was the existential reading I tried to give to the various biblical stories. It is a bit of the same approach that Pope Francis has and which I often find in myself. The Gospel is an experience that illuminates our every experience, and if we read it often with this awareness it can be truly revolutionary for everyone’s life.

You saw up close the impact of the earthquake in L’Aquila. How did this event change you? What impact did it have on your ministry and spiritual life?

Every event of this magnitude inevitably leaves its mark. After many years I still wonder what impact this had on me. I only have the hope that that pain has made me more human, more concrete, more essential, and for this very reason, more human.

Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen

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