By Fabio Colagrande
On the day of his Christmas greetings to the Roman Curia in 2019, Pope Francis chose a book by Father Luigi Maria Epicoco as a gift for the Cardinals. On Wednesday, Pope Francis named the young priest as ecclesiastical assistant of the Dicastery for Communication and columnist of L'Osservatore Romano, in view of his distinguished editorial commitment and his work more generally as a communicator.
Father Epicoco has been a priest since 2005, ordained by the then-Archbishop of L'Aquila, Giuseppe Molinari. As a young priest, he lived through the earthquake that shook his adopted city on 6 April 2009, when as chaplain to university students he experienced the tragedy of seeing eight young people in the Casa dello Studente buried under the rubble.
Originally from Brindisi, Fr Epicoco, is the author of numerous books on religious topics. He currently holds a chair in philosophy at the Lateran University; and in 2019, the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Angelo De Donatis, appointed him Dean of the Higher Institute of Religious Sciences Fides et Ratio Issr in L'Aquila.
In this interview with Vatican media, Fr Luigi Epicoco speaks of the need to make communion possible through communication, and to understand the role of a journalist as a “bridge-builder.”
Vatican News: How did you receive your appointment?
Fr Luigi Maria Epicoco: I received it with surprise and at the same time with joy. I really hope to be able to contribute in some way to the work of a Dicastery of the Holy See that has the precious task not only of communicating the Magisterium of the Pope, but also of making communion possible through communication.
VN: What role do you think an ecclesiastical assistant can play in a Vatican department dedicated to communication?
LME: I believe he has the same role as the physiotherapists, the doctors on the side-lines, or the coaches have in a football match, that is, those who are there, who do not play the game, but who in some way take care of those who play, those who experience the game personally. The Dicastery of Communication is made up of competent people who put their hearts and their professionalism at the service not only of the Dicastery but of the whole Church. I believe that this appointment by the Pope is intended to be a further help to accompany this competence and this effectiveness.
VN: You have also been appointed columnist of the Holy See's daily newspaper and you are a respected writer in Catholic publishing. What challenges do you see for Catholic communicators today?
LME: First of all, I believe that the challenge is to constantly seek out the truth, without doing so in an ideological manner, but going to look in the creases of the news or even in cultural movements for that ‘common thread’ of truth that sometimes remains hidden. A good journalist, a good writer, must succeed in bringing out this thread of truth, and when he succeeds, he certainly finds common ground with what is distant, with what is different. I see the Catholic communicator as a builder of dialogue and not as a militant who uses his pen, his profession, to do evil.
VN: In his most recent Message for World Communications Day, Pope Francis emphasises that in journalism nothing can replace seeing for oneself. Is relationship important in this profession too?
LME: I believe in this profession it is important to have a relationship with reality and not with the prejudices that are sometimes engrained within us and replace the experience of reality. It is a bit like saying that the Pope has put the great category of ‘bearing witness’ back at the centre. To be a good journalist, a journalist must therefore return to being above all a witness.
VN: In your books you often stress the need for believers to recognise their own weaknesses and entrust them to God. Could this also be a starting point for your new assignment?
LME: Well, I absolutely think so. The Gospel tells of a miracle performed by Jesus starting with a young man's snack: five loaves and two fish that eventually feed a crowd of thousands. This is not only my intention, but it is my great hope that what little I carry in the backpack of my experience, of my ministry, can be useful to someone. And so also to this Dicastery, and I hope to all those who work in it.