Rome, Italy -- Communication and Christian Identity

Some 300 people who work in Church communications offices and professionals in the communications field from all over the world gathered in Rome from April 26 to 28 to discuss the relationship between identity and dialogue in the communication strategies of the Church. This seventh edition of the seminar organized by the School of Institutional Communication at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross brought together representatives of dioceses, bishops’ conferences, and other ecclesial groups from 70 countries.

“The aim of the seminar,” said Professor José Maria La Porte, head of the organizing committee, “was to show that a clearly defined identity, such as that found in the Catholic Church, is not an obstacle but rather a strong facilitator to communication.”

Among the speakers were representatives from local churches, such as Helen Osman, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bishops Conference, and Auxiliary Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole, of L’Aquila. They alternated with professionals from the media including Michele Levy, Founder of Brand Strategy Consulting, New York, and Marco Pogliani from the communications consulting firm Pogliani and Associates, Milan.

During the seminar, various cases studies were presented, such as the “Catholics Come Home” campaign in the United States (Tom Peterson) and the “Tournée Bioéthique” in France (Tugdual Derville). There were also some practical sessions with experts, including Lorenzo Cantoni from Lugano University, Switzerland, who spoke on “The New Media and Christian Identity,” and Norberto Gonzalez Gaitano, from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, who analyzed the repercussions in American public opinion of the Pope’s recent trip to the United States.

The German theologian Jutta Burggraf spoke on the topic “Communicating Christian Identity in a Postmodern Society,” while Professor Jose Maria La Porte gave a talk entitled “The Voice of the Church in Public Debate: a Strategic Proposal.”

Two round tables were held on the topic “Understanding the Church and Making it Understood.” In one of these, spokespersons of bishops’ conferences from Italy, Slovakia and the United States took part; while in the other, Vatican journalists for various media (the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, The New York Times, De Telegraaf and Corriere della Sera) offered their experiences. The director of the Rome Reports TV News Agency, Juan Boo, spoke on the presence of the Church on television screens, the Internet and mobile devices.

The program included a meeting in the pressroom of the Holy See with the Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, and a final intervention by Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Other sessions dealt with communications crises and aspects of interreligious dialogue.

Romana, n. 50, January-June 2010, p. 167-168.

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