Quick Hits: Important background on Vatican-China accord and Press Office turnover

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jan 04, 2019

The Vatican has struck a deal with China, which—although we still don’t know any details—apparently gives Beijing the power to nominate new bishops. Is there any precedent for such an agreement? Yes, there is. Writing for AsiaNews, Li Ruohan compares the Vatican-China accord with the concordat between the Holy See and Napoleon, signed in 1801. In each case the regime gained effective control over the Catholic Church, paying lip service to the Roman Pontiff but regulating all religious activities, with bishops who were loyal to the Holy See shunted aside. Napoleon’s government never kept the promises it made under the concordat. Why should we expect anything different from Beijing?


The sudden resignations at the Vatican press office cry out for explanation, and veteran Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister provides it, pointing out that the departures of Greg Burke and Paloma Garcia Ovejero came shortly after the Pope had unceremoniously sacked Giovanni Maria Vian, the editor of L’Osservatore Romano. The abrupt turnover, Magister believes, reflects three developments:

  1. The new consolidated dicastery for Communications is coming into its own, wresting control away from the Secretariat of State.
  2. L’Osservatore Romano is gradually losing its role as the most important organ of Vatican communications—in part because of increased emphasis on electronic and social media, but also because of the stronger influence of the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica, and its editor, Father Antonio Spadaro.
  3. The new editor of L’Osservatore, Andrea Monda, is a close ally of Father Spadaro. The new editorial director of the Communications dicastery, Andrea Tornielli, is, like Father Spadaro, a zealous defender of Pope Francis and an aggressive critic of the Pope’s perceived enemies. In short, the Vatican’s communications team is now—as Magister puts it—“more firmly than ever in the hands of Pope Francis’s stalwarts.”

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: james-w-anderson8230 - Jan. 09, 2019 1:23 AM ET USA

    Business as usual under Francis.

  • Posted by: DanS - Jan. 08, 2019 8:02 PM ET USA

    Bergoglio acts more and more like a tin-can despot than a pope.