Vatican communications head resigns over Benedict XVI letter scandal

Vatican communications head resigns over Benedict XVI letter scandal

Vatican communications head resigns over Benedict XVI letter scandal

Msgr. Dario Vigano, director of the Vatican Secretariat for Communications, speaks during a Jan. 23 Vatican news conference. (Credit: Paul Haring/CNS.)

Citing recent “controversies” surrounding his duties, the embattled head of the Vatican’s communications office has resigned his position.

Citing recent “controversies” surrounding his duties, the embattled head of the Vatican’s communications office has resigned his position.

Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, the prefect of the Secretariat for Communication, has come under fire for releasing only portions of the text of a letter from Pope emeritus Benedict XVI during the launch of a new Vatican-published compilation of books about Francis’s theological and philosophical background that was released to mark his fifth anniversary as pope.

The Secretariat for Communication released a digitally altered photo of Benedict’s letter which blurred the portion of the page where the pope emeritus said he did not read the works and could not write a commentary due to other commitments.

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The scandal grew worse when it was discovered Benedict had also criticized the inclusion of a theologian who had been critical of himself and his predecessor, Pope St. John Paul II.

Viganò was accused by critics of spreading “fake news” just weeks after the release of Francis’s message for the World Day of Communications, which was dedicated to condemning journalistic malpractice.

In his March 19 resignation letter to the pope – which was released by the Vatican – the priest said the scandal was “destabilizing” the reform of Vatican communications, to which Viganò was entrusted in 2015.

He was given the task of merging the Vatican’s disparate communications offices, which were considered expensive and increasingly ineffective in the modern media landscape.

Viganò accomplished the merger of Vatican Radio and the Vatican’s television center (which Viganò headed from 2013), and the launch of a new Vatican News website.

The project met with stiff resistance – especially within the former Vatican Radio, which took up the bulk of the Vatican’s communication’s resources – and the “Lettergate” controversy confirmed some employees’ fears that the once-journalistic institution would be transformed into an enterprise more resembling a public relations firm.

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Viganò said in his letter to the pope he did not want the issue to “delay, damage or even block” the reorganization, which is entering its final phases.

In his Mar. 21 letter accepting Viganò’s resignation, Francis insisted the reform would continue, specifically mentioning the upcoming integration of the Vatican printing office and L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, within the larger communications apparatus.

Francis also asked Viganò to stay on at the Secretariat for Communication, naming him an “assessor” to aid whomever is appointed as his successor.

Until the new prefect is named, the office’s secretary – Argentinian Msgr. Lucio Adrián Ruiz – will run the office.

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