Sunday, May 18, 2008

Rome Seminar to be held for Journalists

Here is a May 15th article on Catholic Online about a recent Communications seminar at the University of the Holy Cross in Rome. It includes an interview with Fr. John Wauck who teaches communications at the university and who is known for his own blog which he initiated during the Da Vinci Code phenomena. He still gets plenty of hits. The article is written by Miriam Díez i Bosch:

Opus Dei Father John Wauck explained to ZENIT the difficulties journalists have when they are assigned to report on the Church and he spoke about the seminar he is helping to organize.

ROME, (Zenit) - Most journalists covering the Church have a hard time grasping its scope, and its real nature "slips through their fingers," said an organizer of a seminar that aims to give the press tools for reporting on Catholicism.

Opus Dei Father John Wauck explained to ZENIT the difficulties journalists have when they are assigned to report on the Church and he spoke about the seminar he is helping to organize.

Father Wauck is the president of the organizing committee for "The Church Up Close: Covering Catholicism in the Age of Benedict XVI," offered by Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

The Sept. 8-14 seminar is for English-speaking professional journalists.

"Most journalists covering the Roman Catholic Church have difficulty grasping the full scope of the institution they're talking about," Wauck said. "They tend to write from a more narrow national or ideological perspective, and the real nature of the Church slips through their fingers, because the Church is universal -- truly catholic -- and transcends ideological-political categories."

Seminar speakers include Cardinal James Stafford (former archbishop of Denver and former president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, now Apostolic Penitentiary), Father Brian Ferme (former dean of Catholic University of America's canon law department and now head of a new school of canon law in Venice), Franciscan Father David Jaeger, (a Holy See expert on relations with Israel) and Francis Campbell (the British ambassador to the Holy See).

Lay of the land

Diego Contreras, dean of the school of Church communications at the Holy Cross University, explained how the seminar came about.

"In essence, 'The Church Up Close' seminar is a condensed version of a series of classes that our school already offers -- once a month, in Italian -- during the academic year for Rome-based 'vaticanisti,'" he said. "The success of that series inspired us to offer a similar program -- all in one week, and in English -- for journalists who are not permanently based in Rome."

In addition to classroom sessions, the fall seminar will feature field trips and personal meetings with curial officials and veteran Vatican correspondents.

The goal is to provide both a basic sense of the Vatican and an in-depth analysis of specific hot-button issues facing the Church today. Coming on the heels of Benedict XVI's trip to the United States, the seminar also promises to give insights into the Pope's thinking and his leadership of the world's largest Church.

Father Wauck added, "Frequently, journalists covering the Roman Catholic Church lack historical perspective. Nowadays, many journalists are used to working within a time-frame that is limited to a few days, sometimes even a few hours. The Church, though, is the oldest institution in the world, and it understands itself in terms of centuries, even millennia."

Daniel Arasa, a member of the organizing committee, said he hopes that "journalists who attend the first 'Church Up Close' seminar [...] will go home with a solid, realistic sense of 'the lay of the land' in Rome: not just who's who and who does what, but also a deeper appreciation for the history and culture of the Church."

"I also hope that they'll come away understanding why the Church sees the modern world -- including things like cutting-edge technologies, international affairs, bioethical challenges, demographic changes and religious pluralism -- the way it does: with both loving concern and genuine hope," he said.

The seminar has been made possible by a generous grant from the U.S.-based Our Sunday Visitor Foundation.