Saturday, September 30, 2023

Final Curtain for the Pope’s “Spin Doctor”

The influential director of the most prestigious Jesuit magazine in Italy must give up his place and finds himself appointed to fourth place in the Dicastery for Culture. 

It is an astonishing transfer in more than one way for the man who has until now been presented as one of the men in the inner circle of the current pontificate, and which demonstrates how much the lines are shifting at the Vatican.

“Dear readers, after 25 years of my life spent serving the magazine, including 12 as director, the time has come for me to thank you, and to pass the baton to my successor, Fr. Nuno da Silva Gonçalves, former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University.” 

It was through chosen words that Fr. Antonio Spadaro informed the readers of Civilta Cattolica of the change in direction at the top of the most prestigious Jesuit publication in Italy.

However, the religious does not find himself unemployed. 

On “X”, he thanked the Sovereign Pontiff and Cardinal Tolentino de Mendonça “who, learning that I was going to leave my functions at the Civilta Cattolica, asked me to spend my energy in the service of the Dicastery for Culture. This is a new page that is opening and which will allow me, I hope, to implement what I have learned from my previous experience.”

Beyond the agreed-upon phrases, the transfer of Fr. Spadaro, considered to be Pope Francis’s spin doctor – or public relations expert – on more than one sensitive subject, marks a step and illustrates a new distribution of cards in the power circles of the current pontificate.

Fr. Antonio Spadaro took the helm of the influential Jesuit journal, whose proofs are normally reread by the Secretariat of State, in September 2011, at the time when the strong winds that led to of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation began to blow, notably the first wave of the Vatileaks and the sensational positions taken by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.

Like so many others before him, Antonio Spadaro seems to share the fateful destiny of the unfortunate Icarus: caught in the spotlight of the media, the director of Civilta Cattolica may not have taken the measure of the reserve that was imposed on him, and did not make friends.

Should we see a cause and effect relationship? Following an internal consultation, the General of the Jesuits, Fr. Arturo Sosa Abascal, decided to put an end to the functions of the director of the Civilta Cattolica who now finds himself inserted into the Curia in a position which does not require being a bishop. 

It seems to be a consolation prize.

Beginning on October 1, Fr. Nuno Enrique Sancho da Silva Gonçalves will be the first non-Italian Jesuit to take the reins of Civilta Cattolica

He is a man referred to in turn by the Italian press as a “friend of the Pope.”