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Vatican News Resources: a universal perspective

The Vatican News portal on the world wide web.

During my five years in Rome, I experienced firsthand one of the creedal hallmarks of the Catholic Church:  universality. The primary experience of that was meeting students and professors from all over the world who attended my university. But it was listening to Vatican Radio and reading L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper introduced me to the reality of the Catholic Church in all its rich diversity but unified faith. My love for the Church grew in the measure I got to know the members of the Body of Christ throughout the world.

That first Christmas when I served for Saint Pope John Paul II at Midnight Mass, I was introduced to Archbishop John Foley, who at that time was named as the director of communications for the Catholic Church. He was that voice for so many years you heard narrating the Midnight Mass television broadcast throughout the world. Eventually he was named a Cardinal and he served many years directing communication for the Church. He was instrumental in moving the model of communication from simple announcements of papal appointments and church documents to a robust ministry of evangelization through modern media.

Cardinal John Foley directed communication for the Vatican for many years.

In Easter time we are reading from the Acts of the Apostles. You can say that this is the record of the news of the early Church. In fact, Luke begins both his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles explaining the reason he was writing these document:  to share the good news. We use the old English world “gospel” to describe what he was doing, and I think we often miss the underlying divine and human realities of what Christ and the Church did at the beginning. Call it either gospel or evangelization, what is happening is the action of God and His People in a particular place and time. Of course there is a categorical distinction between the Sacred Scriptures and Catholic Missourian; nevertheless, each is spreading the news about Jesus Christ in its own unique and necessary way.

Today, the easiest portal for learning about the Church throughout the world, and how God is still visiting his people, is the Vatican News web site. It is the news site I visit before all others each day. Instead of reading commentaries about the Holy Father, or listening to people talk “about” the Church, I read and hear Pope Francis’s actual words. I learn about the amazing and wonderful work of the Church throughout the world in being the compassionate face of Christ. Reading about the particular challenges that Catholics in Africa face in living out their faith inspires me to greater fidelity to my vocation as a priest and as a Catholic. When I pray for the Church throughout the world, in my mind I see the faces of people whose stories I have read or heard. The Vatican New site gives me perspective on our own parish because I can see how others are responding to the same challenges we face or facing challenges we never would dream of encountering.

The web site isn’t just news. It is also a source to link to the many resources the Church has to offer. While  focuses primarily on the teaching ministry of the Church, Vatican News guides you to the not only the textual resources but the rich variety of other media, especially video and audio, which form part of the modern evangelization.

Image of St. Michael the Archangel who protects the Church
Image of St. Michael the Archangel who protects the Church 

I would like to highlight two resources that I recently encountered on the Vatican News site. First is the new collection of prayers, rituals and reflections that have been gathered to guide the Church during the pandemic. I am reminded that the Church has been through countless plagues and disasters through the centuries. There is great wisdom in the prayer and ritual, the music and the stories that come forth in time of need. Strong in the Face of Tribulation is a complete book free to download as a PDF. I especially welcome the beautiful litany that is included which Pope Francis prayed on the fifth Friday of Lent at the prayer service and special blessing to the city and to the world for protection from the corona virus.

Among the many links that the Vatican News site provides are links to the streams of the papal liturgies. Being able to listen to Pope Francis’s homilies each day as he celebrates daily mass reminds me of the great gift we share in the priesthood. My image of the Pope growing up was that of a far off person, removed from the daily concerns of the average person. My years in Rome helped to make the pope a bit more accessible to my everyday experience, especially as Saint Pope John Paul was such a warm and friendly person. But it is watching Pope Francis celebrate the daily mass, yes as the supreme pontiff, but also as a priest who is trying to shepherd his flock through very difficult times, that strengthens me so much in my own vocation.