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Pope Francis and the “Revolution of Gestures”

©M. MIGLIORATO/CPP
February 24 2016 : Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican.
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An interview with the prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for Communications, Msgr. Dario Viganò, on his new book, “Fidelity is Change”

A global poll just out by WIN/Gallup shows that Pope Francis has become the most popular world leader. How is this possible? To gain insight, Aleteia sat down with the man the pope appointed to lead the renewal of Vatican communications, Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, Prefect of the Holy See’s Secretariat for Communications.

In this interview, Msgr. Viganò takes us behind the scenes of this great pontiff, as portrayed in his latest book, “Fedeltà è cambiamento. La svolta di Francesco raccontata da vicino”. [Fidelity is change: an up-close look at the Francis turn-around]

Msgr. Viganò, in your book you analyze Pope Francis’ “revolution of gestures”. What do you mean by this?

Anyone involved in communications knows that, generally, it takes great strategy to create a media event. Pope Francis has this ability, and his every gesture becomes an event. We are witnessing what I call ‘everyday event-making.’ What are the reasons behind it?

He is a pope who has introduced us to a new style. He has abandoned the rituals, the courtly formalities … and so, somehow, he is very striking. No? Some boys and girls say: ‘He seems like one of our relatives.” What do they mean by this? That there is a closeness, a proximity. I feel welcomed exactly as one of my family welcomes me.

How you do explain the change in Pope Francis’ personal relationship with the media since his election as pope? Archbishop Bergoglio didn’t have this kind of relationship with the media.

Pope Francis carries deep within himself a certain distance from the [media] panorama. He isn’t concerned about public opinion, about what people say. And this is why, regarding the several small cases that have emerged after his off the cuff remarks, he is absolutely not worried, because he is a man who knows that this is all vanitas vanitatum [vanity of vanities]; it’s the media carnival event that’s here today and gone tomorrow. However, as pope he realizes that, because the Gospel spans oceans, he has to undergo the burden of being at the center of media attention.

At the beginning of his pontificate, I explained to him that he needed to put an official signature on it, that the television camera was necessary at certain times in his work, but he never allowed me.

He is a man very much on the outside logic of performance. He never loves being at the center, being the main character. Of course, he knows that, in order to be close to those who are far away, he has to submit himself to this never-ending camera stream that chases and sometimes pursues him.

This pope is a ‘television pope,’ but personally he doesn’t watch TV…

He is a ‘television pope’ in a paradoxical sort of way because in the television landscape, where everything is shouted, and where there’s a spill of oftentimes empty words, his style is characterized by a low voice and tone, and by a very slow pace. This discontinuity, especially in the face of words that hit on the central questions of every man and woman — I’m thinking of work, wounded affections, the dream of hope — creates a great deal of attention, regardless of whether one is a believer or un-believer.

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