HOMILIES IN THE CHAPEL OF ST. MARTHA HOUSE
Włodzimierz Rędzioch talks with Alessander De Carolis – one of journalists of the Vatican Radio preparing summaries of papal homilies
WŁODZIMIERZ RĘDZIOCH: – Is it true that pope Francis expressed wishes not to broadcast his Holy Masses celebrated in the chapel of St. Martha’s House every day?
ALESSANDRO DE CAROLIS: – Pope Francis has given homilies since the beginning of his pontificate but they were not recorded at once. However, after some time when people started realizing their meanings, it was decided to change homilies into real journalistic news, certainly, by consent of the Pope. But, it is true that Francis did not want them to be broadcast live, but only be summarized.
– Preparing a summary of a homily is an everyday task of elected journalists of the Vatican Radio. There are three of you: Sergio Centofanti (a vice-chief of all Italian news services of the Vatican Radio), you, Alessandro De Carolis (a chief journalist of a news program at 2 p.m.) and Alessandro Gisotti (your deputy). Could you tell us what happens at 7 a.m. when the Holy Mass starts, till the moment of publication of synthesis of the Pope’s words?
– Every morning in the chapel of St. Martha’s House there is a technician of the Vatican Radio who records papal homilies, and a cameraman of the Vatican Television Centre who films them. After the Holy Mass a recording is brought to Palazzo Pio (Pius Palace) and introduced into digital audio system, but is confidential, available only to secretaries who write down the recording word by word, including repetitions, neologisms, etc. Such a prepared text, finished at about 9.20-9.30 is taken to one of journalists on duty who reads it and prepares three about 40-minute fragments which present Pope’s thoughts in the best way, certainly according to our evaluation. Secretaries choose fragments from the recording, indicated by a journalist and make them available to a leading journalist. Whereas, the latter one records Pope’s voice with chosen three fragments of the text. At 10.30-10.40 information service is ready and at about 11.00 it is given to the public (first the text, later the sound because its technical preparation lasts longer).
– Who gives the final agreement to the text publication?
– While we prepare the synthesis of the homily in the radio, a full text written down by secretaries gets to the State Secretariat which can give us remarks on a constant basis – a journalist considers them, editing the final text. When the three ‘pieces’ have already been chosen, the State Secretariat passes them also to the Vatican Television Centre which selects the video material to chosen texts – a short video news service is made out of this material, called by us a ‘pill’; it usually contains one or two fragments of the papal homily.
– Also ‘L’Osservatore Romano’ publishes its synthesis of a homily…
– Work in the radio and in the newspaper is on parallel tracks, although independently. The newspaper has got a full text and prepares its synthesis. Radio and the newspaper journalists consult one another only when there are problems with interpretation of some sentences of the Pope in order to explain the sense of his words well.
– Pope Francis gives homilies in Italian, which is not his mother tongue. He also uses Spanish expressions and real neologisms. How do you cope with these linguistic ‘puzzles’?
– Pope Francis speaks Italian very well but likes speaking language of ordinary people, therefore, his Italian is very clear. There are some Spanish expressions or even in a dialect of Buenos Aires, but, all in all, their meaning is clear enough. When there are unclear words – but it happens very rarely – we consult Spanish cooperators.
– Francis has created so many new expressions and neologisms that even a book was written about it. Can you remind us an expression which has surprised you the most and which you like the most?
– I could mention a lot of them. For example, I was surprised to hear the expression nuns ‘with a stewardess’ smile’ – a nun should radiate with warmth of faith, not smile beautifully but in a cold and formal way, like a stewardess does it. Moreover, all remarks concerning the Christians: sad Christians ‘with a face like a chili pepper with vinegar’, ‘salon’s Christians’, ‘sitting Christinas’ who lost dynamism of faith…
– Pope’s homilies are characterized by spontaneity and language simplicity. The writer Vittorio Sermonti said that Francis’ language is featured with ‘exactness of children’s language and impudence of great poets’ language’. And how do you evaluate the Pope’s language?
– I would like to emphasize one thing: most of his expressions are connected with everyday life and faith of ordinary people. Pope Benedict XVI, a great theologian, could speak very clearly, and his style was the result of many years of studies and resulted from the fact that he had a professor’s mentality. Whereas, clearness of Francis results from the fact that the Pope wants to be a pastor of ‘sheep’s smell’ and one can feel it, when he speaks - he presents facts of faith, using a language of an ordinary man. In this way he makes things understandable, otherwise, it would be difficult to understand them.
Recently in Vatican ‘Direttorio omiletico’ (Homiletic Directory) has been published, prepared by the Congregation for Divine Cult and Sacraments Discipline. It gives a good example of the style of the Pope’s homilies in St. Martha’s House.
– All popes used to celebrate the everyday Holy Mass in a private chapel. For John Paul II the morning Eucharist was the most important moment of a day. However, in the modern history popes never ‘used’ homilies given during private Holy Masses, as a means of the public catechesis. Whereas, in the case of Francis, it seems to me that these are just homilies from the St. Martha’s House which are the most important element of his Magisterium. Do you agree with it?
– During two years Francis wrote documents of the Magisterium on such important issues as peace, life protection, etc. which were not written in St. Martha’s House. Whereas, for somebody who knows sermons given in it, the exhortation ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ is a collection of homilies changed into a papal document.
– Finally, I would like to ask you why in his homilies pope Francis has a critical attitude towards us, ‘ordinary’ Catholics?
– Francis is very understanding towards ‘ordinary’ Christians than towards clergy. Pope hates hypocrisies, neutral Christians, what is connected with corruption – the material and spiritual one. He is fighting against evil, also in the Church, using a clear language which is sometimes very strong. But when he speaks to an ordinary Christian person, his language becomes sweet and mild. In his sermons there always appears an aspect of Divine Mercifulness: God who always forgives, God who always awaits us. Certainly, the Pope demands more from consecrated people. It also concerns his person, therefore, we hear Francis saying: also Pope makes mistakes, also Pope is a sinner, also Pope needs mercifulness.