Pope Francis has named an Italian journalist with decades of experience in print, radio and television broadcasting to head the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication, the first time a lay person has headed a Vatican department.
Paolo Ruffini (61), who was in charge of the Italian conference of Catholic bishops’ TV and radio network, was named prefect of the dicastery last week, making him the first lay person to head such a high-level Vatican dicastery.
Born in Palermo in 1959, Ruffini received a degree in law at Rome’s La Sapienza University. He worked for a number of major Italian newspapers beginning in 1979, then began working for radio news programs in 1996. He started working in television news in 2002.
He served as the head of the Italian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ television and radio stations – TV2000 and Radio InBlu, from 2014 to 2018.
He has received numerous awards for journalism, according to a Vatican press release.
Pope Francis created the Secretariat for Communication in 2015 to streamline and co-ordinate the Vatican’s many news and communications outlets and make them more effective. The Vatican has since changed its name to Dicastery for Communication.
The development of digital media, with its converging technologies and interactive capabilities, required “a rethinking of the information system of the Holy See” and a reorganisation that proceeded “decisively toward integration and a unified management,” the Pope wrote in the letter establishing the new dicastery.
Speaking with news agency Reuters in late June, the Pope said that there had been a woman considered among the candidates for the job, but she reportedly wasn’t “available because she had other commitments”.
He succeeds Italian Msgr Dario Vigano, who resigned as prefect in March after a controversy involving the use and photographing of a letter from retired Pope Benedict XVI.
He released a digitally altered photo of Benedict’s letter which blurred the portion of the page where the Pope emeritus said he did not read the works and could not write a commentary due to other commitments.
Viganò said in his letter to the Pope that he didn’t want the issue to cause any “delay, damage or even block” the reorganisation of the Vatican’s communications, which he said is entering its final phases.
In a March 21 letter accepting Viganò’s resignation, Francis insisted the reform would continue, specifically mentioning the upcoming integration of the Vatican printing office and L’Osservatore Romano within the larger communications apparatus.