CEO of Salt & Light TV and invaluable communications assistant during papal transition
Father Tom Rosica has made himself indispensable to the English-language media covering the Vatican without ever being officially named to any post. The Basilian priest’s de facto role came into being during the February-March papal transition, when 6,000 journalists descended on Rome. Many knew only English or French, and struggled to understand the sede vacante process. Father Rosica not only sat at the side of Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi during press conferences, translating his briefings into those languages, but made himself available for interviews and comments. In those weeks Father Rosica began a daily email service, which proved popular and continues to this day. In it, journalists receive Pope Francis’ homilies and Father Lombardi’s statements, supplemented by Father Rosica’s own useful links or quotes.
Father Rosica does all this while continuing to be the CEO of Salt & Light TV
, a Canadian Catholic broadcaster that offers live coverage of papal events as well as extremely useful interviews (a series with papabile cardinals were required viewing for journalists covering the conclave). For English-language media, Salt & Light is a friendly refuge in the very Italian-oriented, and often arcane, Holy See communications effort.
Sometimes, inevitably, Father Rosica risks duplicating, or even drowning, the Vatican’s spokesman. Following the news that Pope Francis was Time magazine’s Person of the Year, Father Lombardi gave a very full statement to which Father Rosica added, somewhat portentously, that he could “only re-echo the sentiments of Father Lombardi” — before adding his own riff.
But this slightly ambiguous, spontaneous role is typical of the “Francis way” of communicating, in which dialogue and directness take preference over formality and rigor. Like the daily homilies at the Santa Marta, Father Rosica is a new form of Vatican communication — clearing obstacles, untying knots and cheerfully helping to drag an age-old institution into the age of transparency. This journalist is one of many who are grateful.
Austen Ivereigh is a British Catholic journalist, commentator and director of Catholic Voices.