Fr. Inf. Ireneusz Skubiś talks with Antonio Gaspari – a chief of the international Catholic informative agency Zenit

FR. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ: - Could you present briefly the informative agency Zenit, please?

ANTONIO GASPARI: - The history of Zenit is strongly connected with the person of John Paul II. It was the year 1997,when John Paul II, today the blessed one, was preparing the Bishops’ Synod concerning the Latin America. He invited representatives of various religious orders responsible for some movements in the Latin America for the meeting, and he asked for creating a communication tool, so that he could reach to the nations living there. Certainly, at that time, there were the Vatican Radio, ‘L’Osservatore Romano’ and catholic weeklies, but the Holy Father was thinking about a quick reliable way of delivering the news. People responsible for the movements which were at the meeting with the Pope, helped in establishing this kind of communication tool. Among the representatives of various religious orders there were also legionaries of Christ. I myself helped in creating something like a kind of an informative agency from Rome. At the beginning one of priests from America became engaged in this work and two laymen: my Spanish colleague and me. First, we initiated a Spanish agency – it was a correspondence from the synod. We were preparing 5-6 news daily and we sent them via internet to 400 receivers, mainly bishops and journalists. First of all, it was important for the Latin America. They had already had a computer system which made the things easier, only some tools were missing. Today Zenit is the biggest and the most popular Catholic agency in the world. Every day we deliver news in 7 languages: Italian, Portugese, Spanish and Arabian. We write from 70 to 100 articles a day, we have over 600 thousand of receivers, about 7 million people browse our website every month. Every month we send 17 million e-mails. We do not owe it only to the miracles of technology, but it is also the effect of our way of running journalism.
The rule, which has been accompanying us from the very beginning, was not to reject the principle: A bad news is a good news. Rejection is an answer to a bad news. Whereas the principle which as the first has been inscribed in our editorial team is: ‘A good news is the best news’. We have always looked for good news, even in difficult of hopeless situations. We based our journalistic activity on this rule. Thanks to it, we can reach to a bigger number of people. In this context I also see the cooperation with ‘Niedziela’ – with which I am very glad – which has an extremely interesting and even glorious history.

– It is a beautiful motto: ‘A good news is the best news!’ Blessed priest Jerzy Popiełuszko was accompanied the words: ‘Win the evil with the good’. How meaningful is what you said, because the world is really being bombarded by bad news, and we are often excited by them. Now I understand the words of the Holy Scripture much more, saying that God was happy because what He had done, was good (see the Genesis 1). It gives us hope which opens our eyes to the main message of theology of salvation. And how does the Zenit agency realise its mission of search for the good in the world?

– We think that showing the good is the only suitable way of looking at the reality. We must know that every day so many people do acts of love towards the others. Certainly, the evil exists and everyday it somehow produces sufferings and victims, but the future is created by those who do more good than evil. Courage is very important; especially among people who are doing extremely important things. They are also afraid, but they overcome their fear and come out bravely with the good.
In the journalistic world our rule is a revolution. But we must note that a good news is being read and more observed more in the worldat the moment than a bad news. When we are analysing what articles people read, we see that they are more willing to read the articles which show the good. A bad news deprives people of hope, imposes fear on them and in this way it closes the future. Whereas a good news helps the man in doing greater and better things. It is very important, especially in the situations completely deprived of hope. People have a possibility to do good things, even the heroic ones. Like Fr. Popiełuszko. He consciously accepted his suffering for the sake of love. He rejected a possibility of responding to evil with evil – he always responded to evil with the good. He was murdered but he overcame evil in this way. His testimony of the good helped in overcoming the dictatorship of communism.

– You suggested showing a film about Fr. Popiełuszko on the World Youth’s Day in Rio de Janeiro…

– Yes. When I saw the film for the first time, I felt an amazing impression. This film shows a real story. This testimony is more educational than a thousand of various speeches. In Italy, I took care of showing this film at a meeting in Rimini (a Meeting of Nations Friendship, organised for years by the Liberazione movement), at a film festival of families in Fiugga near Rome, and also the last Bishops’ Synod in Rome (12 October 2012).It is very important to know the truth, because in the world there are different opinions about Fr. Popiełuszko, he is presented as, for example, a man of politics, who used to exaggerate. Whereas his example of the contemporary martyrdom is really special. He started a fight with himself so that not to react to evil with evil. His whole behaviour was based on the good which overcomes evil. Yes, those who are weak, are strong. And, where the sin is growing, grace is higher there. These are right arguments of our Christian faith…

– You deliver the message of the Pope. This is also a message of hope about which you mentioned.

– Many people think that what the Holy Father says, is later repeated in the world. Unfortunately, it is not so. On many continents people do not know speeches of the Holy Father. The first task of the agency is to deliver the Holy Father’s words further, help the Catholics and other people in the world understand what he says. For example, in the Arabian edition of Zenit we are trying to do something for our brothers who suffer every day, and are even exposed to death. We want people who are against the pope for various reasons, to have a possibility to get to know what the pope preaches.
If it was not for the Arabian version of Zenit, the teaching of the Pope would not be known in that region of the world at all. We also do it in other languages – English, German, French – we translate the whole speech of the general audience. It is also done so by ‘L’Osservatore Romano’, but it does not have a possibility to deliver the papal text to the world so quickly. We must remember that Pope’s words are the words of peace, good and hope. And this is the first task of Zenit.

– You say about poverty, about famine among people, about unemployment. Isn’t it interference into politics?

– It is not a problem for us. We are looking for the rightness of our faith. We refer to people, we explain our social project – and this is the civilisation of love. Political, ideological reflections are undertaken by authority groups who have their own interests. Our interest is general. our reference point are not authority groups, but particular people, etc. An attempt to sow the truth, justice and the good – this is our main task.

– ‘Niedziela’, as a Catholic newspaper, is trying to take an attitude towards difficult social problems, for example, unemployment, but we are sometimes accused of pursuing politics.

– We show that we are not interested in politics, but people who want to serve to the society, also in the public space, who want to help those who are in a difficult existential situation: unemployment, social justice – these are great civilizational tasks. The Catholics are strong enough to serve to God and their neighbours in politics. In order to be able to do it, they must maintain freedom from a temptation of the power, money and ideology. We also thank God through their ministry. This is what Jesus teaches us. If we manage to show the value of Christian principles in the world, create a kind of brotherhood, a community – we will overcome everything.

– You are a worldly-known spokesman of the pro-life movement, whose activity converges with the basic Christian option. The Holy Father John Paul II called it a civilisation of love…

– We must remember that a superstition about pro-life movements has been widespread: that we, the Christians, are against women who have abortion done, who use contraception – that generally we are against. We are not against anybody. We are for life. We are in order to save the victims of the perverse policy. We are in order to stand in defence of children, women and families. We are not on the earth to give judgements – this is done by God. We are only in order to help people who are the victims of the bad policy. We always believe that the good will overcome the evil, and the Church is not a political power. St. Paul says about it very clearly that among faith, hope and love, the most important one is love. (see 1 Corinthians 13.13). The Church is the biggest institution in the world which helps. If we do not speak about care for souls, who will deal with treating hearts of those who are internally suffering? A confessor is not a judge, but somebody who mediates between love of God and the man, he points to a way of forgiveness and renewal. We must come out of this superstition, into which the Church has been put.

– You are describing the theology of beauty in an interesting way…

– It is extremely important to understand a universal message of beauty. We are like angelsthrough contemplation of not only the beauty of the world surrounding us, but also masterpieces of art. For, one is going towards Godthrough the beauty. The Church speaks about a way of beauty – ‘via pulchra’. This is a road, which Maryja passed along, who was the most beautiful and the most warm-hearted person in the world. The beauty is something which raises every person. It is not accidental that we are watching real masterpieces of art, raising Christianity onto the tops, not only in museums, but also the modern ones. This is an expression which leads to God. We are legs on the earth, but with eyes fixed at the Heaven. We are looking for the infinite and beauty of God and His love. And this is inscribed in the heart of every human being. Certainly, bad or ugly things can destroy everything, but divine human soul is growing with beauty…


"Niedziela" 37/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: