11-September-2012 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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Journalists Given Chance to Learn How to Cover Catholicism

Pontifical University of the Holy Cross Hosts 'Church Up Close'

By Ann Schneible

ROME, SEPT. 10, 2012 (Zenit.org).- An international seminar aiming to provide journalists with an in-depth perspective of the Catholic Church from the vantage point of Rome commenced this week at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.

The objective of the bi-annually held "The Church Up Close" seminar, which runs this year through Sunday, is to offer journalists the tools they need to effectively cover Catholic news stories, allowing them to learn about and experience firsthand the life of the Church under the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. Throughout the week, those participating in the seminar will attend talks given by various professors, historians, diplomats, those working in Church communications, and members of the Curia.

In today's opening session, participants heard presentations given by several professors of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. Father John Wauck gave introductory remarks, explaining the main purpose of the seminar. These remarks were followed by presentations from Holy Cross professors Father Paul O'Callaghan, on "Nature and mission: What Is the Catholic Church?" and Father Martin Schlag, on "Economic Crisis and Ethics." Closing remarks were made by Holy Cross theology professor, Father Philip Goyret. The day concluded with a tour of the historic center of Rome.

Father Wauck, speaker at the seminar and professor for the Holy Cross' department of "Institutional Church Communications," spoke with ZENIT about the purpose of "The Church Up Close" seminar, and what journalists - especially those who report regularly on the Catholic Church and the Vatican - can benefit from such an experience.

The week-long "The Church up Close" seminar, Father Wauck said, provides journalists with "a vantage point to look at the universal Church: in other words, to see the whole of the Church in its cultural variety, the richness of its history, from Rome." It is an opportunity for these journalists, he continued, to encounter "key players in today's Rome, and to connect the faces with the names that they've heard in reporting about the Church. It's important to have a real feel of the Church, and that's hard to do when you're not in Rome. This course is designed to overcome the obstacles imposed by distance on people who have to write about the Roman Catholic Church."

The seminar, moreover, seeks to give journalists a clear understanding of what the Vatican is. "When they come to Rome to the 'Church Up Close' seminar," Father Wauck explained, "they get a sense of just how complicated the government of the Church is, the different players and the different offices, and the different expertise or levels of authority that are involved in the decisions that come from 'the Vatican.'"

Busy year

This year's "Church Up Close" seminar is particularly useful for journalists, Father Wauck continued, because it comes on the eve of several major events within the Church: Pope Benedict's forthcoming trip to Lebanon; the 50th Anniversary of the second Vatican Council; the anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church's first published release; the Synod on the New Evangelization; and the opening of the Year of Faith - all taking place over the next weeks and coming months.

During the week, for instance, participants will have the opportunity to meet with Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

"Nowadays," Father Wauck said, "it is common for people around the world, including Catholics, to get their information about the Church from secular media. Obviously, secular journalists don't have all the information or theological background that they need to cover Church stories well. The 'Church Up Close' seminar tries to overcome that deficit, to offer journalists - particularly those journalists who are working for secular media - the kind of theological, ecclesiological background and context that can and needs to inform their work."

"Particularly now, in this year, the seminar is going to be extremely useful in helping to communicate to secular journalists the life of the Church during the Year of Faith that's about to begin."

These key events - anniversaries for Vatican II and publication of the Catechism, Synod on the New Evangelization, opening of the Year of Faith - are "very important for the life of the Catholic Church, but they are not easy to write about for secular journalists. The conference, the presentations, and the 'Church Up Close' seminar - about ecclesiology, about the structure of the Church, a conference by Archbishop Fisichella the visit to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - these kinds of meetings are going to be very useful for the journalists to tell the story and explain why it's important: not just for Catholics, but for society."

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