.- A week-long seminar in Rome aimed at helping journalists better understand the Catholic Church is being called a success by organizers.
“I think that some of the prejudices that some journalists may have about the Church fall away when they see things directly and meet the people who are directly in charge of many different aspects of the Church,” course coordinator Professor Daniel Arasa told CNA.
Entitled “The Church up Close,” the course concluded on Sunday, Sept. 16. During the previous week a group of 28 journalists from across the globe took part in a series of seminars, personal meetings and on-site visits throughout the Eternal City.
The goal of the course, according to its creators, is to give journalists “an array of tools to strengthen their coverage” of the Church, including “a basic sense of the lay of the land at the Vatican” and “a serious, in-depth analysis of specific hot-button issues confronting today’s Church.”
It also seeks to introduce journalists to some of the key players in the Vatican, provide them with an overview of the Catholic history and culture and allow them an opportunity to discuss the relationship between the Church and the media.
Paul Burnell, an online journalist with the BBC in Manchester, England and course participant, said that the experience “opens journalists’ eyes to a whole new way of thinking, a whole new way of being and a whole new way of understanding, because normally all you get is a surface view of an organization like the Catholic Church.”
This year’s itinerary included visits to the Vatican Museums, Vatican Library and the Pope’s weekly general audience. The journalists were also given off-the-record briefings from top officials in various Vatican departments, including the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Secretariat of State and the Congregation for Bishops.
“This gave us a real understanding of the depth, the processes, the thinking and the richness of a Church which has been here for a long, long time,” Burnell remarked.
Among the guest speakers for the course were Cardinal Raymond Burke, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura; Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization; and Father Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office.
“The Church up Close” is the brainchild of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Opus Dei’s university in Rome. This year’s event is the third of its kind, and organizers are already looking to the next one.
“I think the proof of the impact that this program has on journalists is that many of the participants have come this year because previous participants have told them about this course and recommended it,” the university’s Professor Arasa explained.