Pope Francis called on Vatican media officials to justify their work by asking how many people read their news at all. Francis asked this during a visit to the Media and Public Relations Office, which costs the Holy See more than all its embassies around the world. The pope visited the Dicastero per la Comunicazione on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of Vatican Radio and the 160th anniversary of the Vatican newspaper L’Oservatore Romano. Faced with a major pension shortfall and a projected Vatican deficit of 50m euros this year, Pope Francis has ordered a three to 10 percent pay cut for senior Vatican officials and suspended two-year seniority bonuses.
The Holy Father has vowed not to fire anyone to make up for the loss of the financial crisis as a result of the pandemic, which affected one of the Vatican’s main sources of income – ticket sales for Vatican museums. But in a sort of warning to Vatican communications staff, he began his unannounced remarks with the question: “There are many reasons for concern about radio, the newspaper, but one thing touches my heart: How many people listen to radio?” How many people read L’Osservatore Romano? ”The pope asks. He said that they work well, their offices are nice and organized, but there is a “danger” that the result of their work will not go where it should. He warned them not to fall victim to “deadly” functionality – when they do everything they need to do, but they really don’t achieve anything.
The question of the relationship between the costs and benefits of the Vatican’s media operations has been raised many times, as the communications service spends more on the Holy See’s annual budget than any other department. According to the latest figures, the Dicastero per la Comunicazione has a budget of € 43 million for 2021, which is about 20 percent of the Vatican’s total budget. The cost of the service is higher than the total cost of ten other Vatican departments. The Vatican has long justified these costs because communication operations are paramount to the Holy See’s core mission: to spread the Catholic faith throughout the world.
The head of this service, Paolo Rufini, said he understood the pope’s words as an invitation to a creative vision for the future, although he acknowledged the harsh media reality today. He recalled that Francis had told officials to “let reality slap them” and that the comment was a kind of call to wake up. Vatican Radio broadcasts 1,000 radio networks around the world in various languages. L’Oservatore Romano says 21,500 readers read it every day through the print and online versions, although that number rises to 40,000 when the different languages distributed by the dioceses are taken into account.
Vatican News, the Holy See’s main Internet portal, has an average of 21 million page views per month, but it’s not clear how many readers it is.