The Vatican's Facebook guru


The power of new media was illustrated in a disturbing way in the violent riot that broke out in Sydney's CBD last weekend. It erupted in the course of a demonstration by Muslims against the trailer for a very D-grade film, Innocence of Muslims, which was posted on YouTube.

The Sydney protest was part of general outrage by Muslims around the globe which drew attention to the trailer, and it went viral with millions viewing it on YouTube. And police in Sydney are now investigating the trail of text messages and social media sites that Muslim protestors used to organise themselves.

The man featured in the above interview grapples daily with the dilemmas and promises of new media, and is trying to harness its potential to communicate about religion in a positive way.

Monsignor Paul Tighe is Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the Vatican department charged with trying to shape how the Church presents itself to the world.

The video also features excerpts of the keynote address he delivered at the recent Australian Catholic Media Congress in Sydney. His talk was called 'Communicating the word: timeless messages, new media'.

Tighe was born in Navan in County Meath, Ireland, in 1958, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1983 for the Archdiocese of Dublin. After ordination, he studied moral theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

In 1990 he was appointed a Professor of Moral Theology at the Mater Dei Institute in Dublin, and in 2000 he became head of the institute's theology department. In 2004 he was named as director of the communications office of the Archdiocese of Dublin.

While in this job, Tighe also started the Office for Public Affairs to aid communications between the Church and government, public institutions and non-government organisations in Ireland and Europe.

In these roles he proved himself to be a very able communicator and administrator, and in 2007 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications based in Rome. In this job he formulates Church policy on media, and is a key advisor to the Pope. He also works with Catholic media agencies around the world, with a special focus on helping them to come to terms with and capitalise on new media. 

Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity. 

Topic tags: Peter Kirkwood, Paul Tighe, new media, Muslim protest



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Existing comments

"Communicating the word: timeless messages,new media." I can hardly begin to envisage the huge scope of the subject of Fr Tighe's talk. But as any marketeer will tell us - know your demographic. The church may have a message for the world but the world had a huge variety of receptors even if we divided it up into nations, cultures, languages, ages, etc. There may be one truth - God loves us unconditionally - but God reveals his love in myriad ways. I don't envy Fr Tighe his job but it is good to see the need for the job is recognised. May the Holy Spirit guide his work. And that of Eureka Street.
Uncle Pat | 21 September 2012

I heard the Monsignor speak on his last visit to Australia. Sadly the Monsignor has no idea about the use of social media and its application in the real world. In fact the Church has little idea about the use of social media and fails dismally in this space. It is more than evangelisation - the Church needs to have a focus on using social media in its everyday mission in the Australian community
Liam Willson | 21 September 2012

The message religions send out are clear, and particularly so the message from the Vatican and its numerous outposts. Because their god loves them all unconditionally, and forgives them their sins, they feel they are totally removed from having to behave in a responsible manner, and are more than happy to continue abusing boys, girls, men, women for all they are worth, hiding these actions from the world, and demeaning us all in the process. On top of that, religions are really good at drumming up and fueling hate, while pretending they are doing the work of their various gods. What would a Vatican priest know about 'social media', unless it was to push their same tired line in another venue?
janice wallace | 21 September 2012

The title of this article caught my attention and I saved it up to read later. And today, I read it, full of hope - however it, and the previous 3 commentators, gives me the feeling that we are getting "more of the same". Sure, I am happy that the Vatican recognizes a need to manage how it communicates to the world. But sadly, they have not appointed someone with the right skills for the job.

The Church has a mammoth task at hand - at all levels. Just ignore the upper levels for now and consider the grassroots. At my local parish, technology isn't even keeping up with the baby boomers (website not updated with interesting, or even critical information), let alone Gen X or Gen Y. Lives are just so busy and full of other fast-paced interests, I'm afraid it is a huge task trying to capture the attention of people who have simply given up being interested.
Baby boomer | 24 September 2012


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