Journalists find a media-savvy Vatican when covering Pope's death

NEW YORK: The death of Pope John Paul II has revealed a Vatican surprisingly transparent and modern in its ability to manage and communicate with the global media, according to print and television journalists.

NEW YORK: The death of Pope John Paul II has revealed a Vatican surprisingly transparent and modern in its ability to manage and communicate with the global media, according to print and television journalists.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the Vatican spokesman, sent an email to the major newswires within 45 minutes of the Pope's death. Simultaneously, a public announcement was made in St. Peter's Square, where several faithful pilgrims were waiting, according to Jeff Israely, Rome correspondent for Time magazine.

"It was quite a feat in terms of coordination and transparency," he said. "The way it was handled was a notable accomplishment for Novaro-Valls and the press operation."

The level of transparency was a departure from the Vatican's previous attitude toward communication, said Jim Bittermann, a senior correspondent based in Paris for CNN who also covered the Vatican in 1978 for NBC.

"We had a devil of a time back in 1978 trying to cover things within the Vatican," said Bittermann, who flew to Rome on March 31 to cover the Pope's final days. "This time around I think we're seeing a much different attitude."

He cited the video provided by CTV, the Vatican television station, which showed images of the Pope on the bier, as well as the entire procession into the public viewing spot in St. Peter's Basilica.

Bittermann said after the funeral, for which 3,500 journalists were accredited, CTV will provide the media with a 30-minute video featuring places within the Vatican used in the conclave - the secret meeting during which the new pope is elected - including the Sistine Chapel, the cardinals' sleeping places during the process, and the urn used to hold the cardinals' votes for the next Pope.

"The idea that they put out video that shows us these things is a real departure from what was done in the past," he said. "Information has always been a closely guarded commodity around the Vatican."

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