30 October 2017, The Tablet

Vatican’s point man on digital promoted to top job at Culture department

The appointment shows the high regard with which Bishop Tighe is held in the Vatican

Vatican’s point man on digital promoted to top job at Culture department

Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Paul Tighe as Secretary for the Pontifical Council for Culture making him one of the highest ranking Holy See officials from the English speaking world. 

The 59-year-old Irish prelate has been credited as the architect of the Pope’s social media presence, while building bridges between the Vatican and the digital world. 

On Saturday the Pope named him number two at the Roman Curia office that was established in 1982 by John Paul II and which has its roots in the Second Vatican Council’s vision for opening up dialogue between believers and non-believers. 

Since 2015 Bishop Tighe, a priest of the Dublin archdiocese, has been adjunct-secretary of the council having been moved there from his job as secretary of the now defunct Pontifical Council for Social Communications. 

In that role the bishop became a valued interlocutor between media organisations and the Vatican as well as co-ordinating and promoting Catholic communications. During this period he played a key part in setting up the papal twitter account - which now has 40 million followers across nine languages.  

After the election of Francis, then Mgr Tighe became secretary to Lord Patten of Barnes’ commission tasked with overhauling Holy See communications. His recommendations for a more unified approach were accepted by the Pope and his advisers. 

To the surprise of some observers, however, Tighe was not appointed to the newly formed Secretariat for Communications tasked with implementing Patten’s changes and instead ordained a bishop and appointed to the Culture office. 

But his latest appointment makes him the number two to Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the president of the department, and shows the high regard with which Bishop Tighe is held in the Vatican. He and the cardinal have already been working closely on the council’s diverse portfolio which includes initiatives on art, sport and a dialogue with atheists known as “the Courtyard of the Gentiles.” The department seeks to help the Church understand and engage with all the latest cultural and social trends. 

Cardinal Ravasi is widely seen as the Vatican’s resident blue skies thinker. A biblical scholar, newspaper columnist and one-time host of a religious television programme, he is as comfortable discussing the latest trends in artificial intelligence, music and smartphones as he is with Old Testament exegesis or sexual ethics.

While at Ravasi’s department, Bishop Tighe has thrown himself into finding links with the digital world and has spoken at events such as the 2017 WebSummit major technology conference in Lisbon and the SXSW gathering in Texas focussed on music, film and interactive media. In Lisbon, Tighe shared a platform with the Chief Executive of the Burning Man festival, Marian Goodell. 

He is currently working on preparations for the pontifical council’s November 15-18 plenary assembly on “The Future of Humanity” which will focus on artificial intelligence, neuroscience and genetics.

PICTURE: Bishop Paul Tighe ©CNS

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