Wikipedia reports, “that The Catholic Church is one of the oldest continuous religious institutions in the world and has played a prominent role in the history of Western civilization.” I think we sometimes forget how old it is, and how now many ancient traditions and practices it follows. Over the centuries this has often been a good thing, as it has given the church a natural immunity to fads, and short lived cultural practices.Time and again you hear people new to working at or with the Vatican talk about how they had to learn this to be effective in their various jobs.
Unfortunately the Digital Age of instant communication makes many of the internal meeting and communication habits of day to day Vatican life rather obsolete, if not down right dangerous in this modern world. It is not just the Vatican that is enduring pressure to change, but much younger institutions and governments all over the world.
This week America Magazine wrote this small article that gives us some insight into how the Vatican is being forced to change to meet the challenge of communicating responsibly with the modern world.
A Vatican Meeting Without Speeches
B y Vatican standards, it is a small revolution: A pontifical council is holding a major assembly without prepared speeches. Participants in the Pontifical Council for Culture’s mid-November plenary meeting have been told to prepare for free discussion instead. The theme of the encounter is communication, and apparently the old model—hours of reading prepared texts—just was not working anymore. Those who have endured Vatican meetings will appreciate just how radical this innovation really is. Reading speeches has been the main activity at Roman Curia assemblies for as long as anyone can remember. There is no prize for brevity, either. Outside participants, especially those from the United States, have complained that such overly structured meetings left little or no time for significant discussion. Their protests are now being taken seriously, aided in part by the digital media explosion. Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the communications council, said bluntly in an article earlier this year that the church relies too much on texts, often using a vocabulary that is “unintelligible and off-putting” to its audiences.