Fr. John Wauck, a communications professor at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, delivered a talk entitled “Communication in the Age of Pope Francis” to students and faculty on September 6. Wauck examined the different communication styles of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI as well as the media’s approach to each papacy.
“It seems that the whole world fell in love with Pope Francis at first sight,” Wauck said. “No one has quite seen a pope like Pope Francis so far.”
He noted that the press is treating this pope differently than former Pope Benedict. With Benedict, they reacted to what he said with suspicion and with Francis they react with applause, he said. It is the style of communication that produces the different results.
“Benedict was content to let words speak for themselves,” Wauck said. “He was a teacher and very self-effacing—he was a very humble man. He was humble in the sense that he didn’t want the message to be about himself in anyway. In some ways, he shied away from making his personality part of the story.”
Fr. Wauck said that Pope Francis is very different—not in that the pope wants the message to be about him—but that there is a personal dimension that is constantly present.
“You can see it in the way he speaks and ad-libs,” he said. “When you speak that way, the message becomes, in a way, a personal plea. His personality and emotions are invested in the message.”
Concluding Wauck said, “I think what we’re seeing with the papacy of Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis is sort of a 1-2 combination punch from the Holy Spirit of theory and practice.”
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Fr. Wauck is an American priest of Opus Dei. A native of Chicago, he studied Renaissance history and literature at Harvard University and philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, where he has lived for the last nineteen years. He teaches a course on literature and Christian faith at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (in 2005, this course was aired as a 13-part television series, called Mirror of the Soul on EWTN) and organizes an international seminar entitled Poetics and Christianity. He has written for many publications, including The American Scholar, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New Criterion, and appeared frequently as a television commentator on matters dealing with the Catholic Church.