A holy calling? Lord Patten to advise Pope Francis on the Vatican's media

Although Pope Francis is overhauling the Catholic Church's image, Patten's new gig could be more of a baptism of fire than the BBC.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 09 Jul 2014

Will it be a job filled with heavenly blessings or a role doused in hellfire? Lord Patten, the former chair of the BBC Trust, is heading to the Vatican this autumn to advise Pope Francis on his media strategy.

The Oxford University chancellor will head a committee that will report in 2015 on improving the Catholic Church’s TV station, radio and newspaper as well as expanding its output online.

Patten’s time at the BBC, which came to an end earlier this year when the 70-year-old Catholic had heart surgery, ought to prepare him well for the part-time role at the Vatican: both organisations have byzantine governance structures, a core devoted following and have been rocked by child abuse scandals.

It probably won’t do much to lower his blood pressure, though, even if Pope Francis is a media gift of God compared to his stern predecessor Pope Benedict XVI. Acts such as washing the feet of young offenders and ditching the bulletproof Popemobile have done more to repair Catholicism’s image in the last year or so than any number of @Pontifex tweets. But dodgy Vatican bankers and paedophile priests aren’t going anywhere.

Earlier this week the Vatican bank, known as the Institute for Religious Works, reported 2013 profits that had nigh on been wiped out after it purged dodgy customers. Its president and four non-exec board members are due to step down too, according the BBC.

Even with a reforming Pope at its helm, unless the Vatican gets its act together on atoning for the child abuse that it tried so hard for so long to hide, Patten’s new role will probably be more baptism of fire than manna from heaven.


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