Pope Francis challenged the Vatican's own media employees Monday to essentially justify their continued work, asking them how many people actually consume their news as he visited the office that costs the Holy See more than all its embassies around the world combined. Francis paid a visit to the Dicastry of Communications to mark the 90th anniversary of Vatican Radio and the 160th anniversary of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, the AP reports. He appeared to lay down the gauntlet for the Vatican's in-house media to remain relevant in a challenging landscape and fraught time for the Holy See financially. Facing a major pension funding shortage and a projected $61 million deficit this year, Francis has ordered salary cuts from 3% to 10% for senior Vatican employees, both lay and religious, and paused seniority bonuses for two years. Francis has vowed not to fire anyone to offset the economic crisis created by COVID-19 and the pandemic-related shuttering of one of the Holy See's main sources of revenue, ticket sales from the Vatican Museums.
But in a warning of sorts to the staff, the pope opened his unscripted remarks with pointed questions: "There are a lot of reasons to be worried about the Radio, L'Osservatore, but one that touches my heart: How many people listen to the Radio? How many people read L'Osservatore Romano?" He said that employees' work was good, their offices nice and organized, but that there was a "danger" that their work doesn't arrive where it is supposed to. He warned against falling prey to a "lethal" functionality in which they go through the motions but don't achieve anything. The Dicastry for Communications had a $52.5 million budget for 2021, around 20% of the whole. The head of the office, Paolo Ruffini, said he took the pope's words as an invitation to creatively look to the future. Reality sometimes "challenges us in a harsh way, it gives us slaps," Ruffini told Vatican News. Vatican Radio is transmitted by 1,000 networks worldwide. L'Osservatore Romano says it is seen by 21,500 readers each day via its printed and online versions, though that figure rises to 40,000 if its different language editions are taken into account. Vatican News averages around 21 million page views per month, though it was unclear if those are unique page views.
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