Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, delivered an address to a banquet in Frascati, Italy, for EWTN’s European affiliates. In it, he delivered a thinly-veiled criticism of their coverage of the Church and their behavior towards Pope Francis.
Parolin began by reminding EWTN of the mission of a Catholic communicator, saying that, “To communicate the salvific message of the Gospel, particularly through the Magisterium of the Successor of Peter, is a radical call, which is carried out today with new methods and new languages.” He went on to decry fake news and communication that is divisive and polarizing. He then recalled the words of EWTN’s founder:
“You cannot go to Heaven hating someone”, Mother Angelica maintained. “Forgive now. Be compassionate now. Be patient and grateful now”. The means of communication, even more so if they purport to highlight their Catholic identity, must strive not to spread hate, but rather, to promote a non-hostile communication. The truth, and the values deriving from it, must be fearlessly upheld. This proclamation, however, should be formulated in a merciful style by those who patiently listen to the women and men of our time, who walk with them, even making themselves the interpreters of their suffering and their concerns.
Invoking Pope Francis’s message to the Catholic Media Association, he reminded them of the principles and values that are necessary for Catholic communications professionals to evangelize and to truly live out their faith:
First of all, as Pope Francis has indicated many times, we can witness to this through our style of communication. In a message to the members of the Catholic Press Association in June of 2020, the Pontiff invited American Catholic media outlets to work for communion, even more so today, “in an age marked by conflicts and polarization from which the Catholic community itself is not immune. We need media”, the Pope continued, “capable of building bridges, defending life and breaking down the walls, visible and invisible, that prevent sincere dialogue and truthful communication between individuals and communities”. If we truly believe that “we are members one of another”, as Saint Paul exhorts us (Eph 4:25), we must then “lend the ear of the heart” toward others, without prejudice or exclusion. To borrow Saint John Henry Newman’s motto, our communication should “speak heart to heart”.
Cardinal Parolin then concluded with a message that was “something particularly close to my heart”:
Catholic media, as you well know, has an important role in the task of the new evangelization. This is why it is good that they feel that they are an active part of the life of the Church, first of all by living in a spirit of communion with the Bishop of Rome. This is all the more urgent today in a time marked by overly-dramatic debates, also within the Church, which do not even spare the person and the Magisterium of the Pontiff. When Mother Angelica founded EWTN with tremendous courage and extraordinary creativity, she did so primarily to provide an instrument of good at the service of the Church and the Pope. This continues to be your greatest mission and reward – to be and to experience yourselves at the service of the Church and the Successor of Peter. As Saint John Paul II stated, recalling Jesus’ prayer for Peter (Lk 22:31), the mission entrusted to him by Jesus concerns the Church as it extends through the centuries and through human generations (cf. General Audience, 2 December 1992). The devil always seeks to sift us like wheat, but Jesus’ prayer for Peter and his successors is our anchor of salvation.
May this spirit of communion with the Pope be the distinctive sign of your work. May this be “felt” and “touched” in your television broadcasts, as well as in your articles and in your multimedia programmes. May every one of your viewers or readers recognize EWTN as a work of God at the service of the truth, ecclesial communion, and the good of humanity.
These words, expressing the hope that people may see “EWTN as a work of God,” serve as a challenge to the network. EWTN has, through its news outlets and television broadcasts, been a constant source of lies, calumny, and slander against the pope and the faithful Catholics who remain loyal him and to the Magisterium of the Church. Pope Francis has said they do “the work of the devil.” These words went ignored by the network, and, based upon several of their recent television programs, this continues to be the case.
That did not deter EWTN’s Spanish-language news service from ignoring their reputation. Catholic News Service’s Cindy Wooden reported that ACI Prensa’s headline for their article about the speech read, “Cardinal Pietro Parolin defines EWTN as ‘a work of God at the service of truth.’”
Although the coverage of the speech by EWTN’s wire service, Catholic News Agency, did not associate the cardinal’s speech with the network’s antagonism towards the pope, other journalists interpreted it as a clear message about their behavior in recent years. For example, Christopher White of the National Catholic Reporter wrote, “The remarks from Parolin, who is widely regarded as a cautious diplomat, mark a rare occasion in the pope’s nearly decadelong papacy that the Vatican has directly criticized the network, which attests to its commitment to ‘redemptive Catholic journalism.'”
Crux’s Elise Ann Allen also noted the network’s long history of antagonism towards the current pontificate, noting that in the past, “EWTN had come under fire from Cardinal Sean O’Malley from Boston, saying both social media and the EWTN network have created a distorted image of Pope Francis in the United States.”
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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.