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Pope Francis and author Andrea Tornielli

ROME, December 21, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis has appointed as editorial director of Vatican communications an Italian journalist who has openly named Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò as the “Great Accuser.”

In a television interview on Nov. 6, Andrea Tornielli, who becomes the editorial director of the Holy See’s Dicastery for Communications, also named Cardinal Joseph Zen as “another great accuser” of the Pope.

Tornielli’s appointment

Earlier this week, the Vatican announced Pope Francis’s pick for editorial director. 

Tornielli, 52, served from 1992-1996 as editor of the Italian monthly 30 giorni, and from 1996-2011 he worked for the Italian daily Il Giornale. In 2011 he moved to the Italian newspaper La Stampa, where he coordinates Vatican Insider

In a statement following the announcement, the head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications, Paolo Ruffini, called the appointment “an important step” in the process of reforming Vatican media. 

“With Andrea Tornielli,” he said, “the editorial board (which is responsible for coordinating all the Vatican media) will have a safe, authoritative and far-sighted guide.”

A perfect fit

To many observers in Rome, Tornielli is seen as the perfect person to oversee Vatican communications under the current pontificate, with one observer remarking: “Francis will finally have the media person he deserves.” 

Some say Tornielli will be a “unifying force” for the Vatican, and will make its media apparatus “much more focused and intelligent.” In serving as editorial director for the dicastery for communications under Ruffini, and coordinating all Vatican media, they say “he will unify the message.” 

An informed source told LifeSite: “Tornielli is incredibly well informed, and has direct access to Pope Francis. He will always know what is wanted.” 

The same source noted, however, that some of Torniell’s insight comes from the fact that “he used to be a conservative.” After Benedict resigned and Pope Francis was elected, they explained, Tornielli “with many others including bishops, swapped sides and put their finger in the wind.” 

“Tornielli’s very proactive,” the source also noted. “He’s brilliant because he’s scanning the skies for enemies of Francis and when he sees them approaching he prepares his argument.” 

As coordinator of Vatican Insider, “Tornielli has privately been tailoring the Pope’s message for years” a well-placed source said following this week’s announcement. “When he speaks, the Pope is swinging behind him.” 

Scanning the skies 

A look at Tornielli’s coverage in the past months bears this out.

On Medjugorje: In May 2017, during an inflight press conference on his return from Fatima, Pope Francis said in regard to Medjugorje that the Ruini-report had its “doubts” about the “alleged current apparitions.” The Pope confessed he had a more “naughty” take on it, admitting he prefers Our Lady as a “mother” rather than a “postmistress” — a message that did not go over well with many Catholics. One day later, Tornielli wrote the first article on the findings of the Ruffini report, supporting Pope Francis. 

On China: In February 2018, when everyone was saying the underground Catholic in China dreaded a potential deal between the Vatican and China, Tornielli brought out the only underground bishop who would say they were happy with the Pope’s dialogue with the Chinese.

On the upcoming February meeting: Last month, one day after Pope Francis appointed Cardinal Blaise Cupich to organize the Pope’s February meeting on sexual abuse —a move which many in the United States saw as a swipe at Cardinal DiNardo, president of the USCCB, and Cardinal O’Malley, head of the commission for the protection of minors — Tornielli published an article highlighting O’Malley’s gratitude to the Pope for the February meeting. 

Tornielli’s take on Viganò 

Perhaps the greatest media challenge the Pope and the Vatican have faced in recent months has been Archbishop Viganò’s bombshell testimony, implicating several senior prelates and the Pope himself in covering up Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse of seminarians and priests.

In August, one day after Archbishop Viganò’s first testimony was released, Pope Francis told reporters on his return flight from the World Meeting of Families in Ireland that he wasn’t going “to say a word” about it, and asked the press to use their “journalistic ability” to “draw conclusions.”  

Six weeks later, on November 6, 2018, Andrea Tornielli released a book entitled “The Day of Judgment” [Il Giorno del Giudizio]. Co-authored by fellow Vatican Insider journalist Gianni Valente, the book reported to have “exclusive documents” and “unpublished testimonies” on the case.

In a television interview on November 22 to promote the new book, Tornielli openly named Archbishop Viganò as the “Great Accuser.” 

“Another great accuser of Pope Francis,” he said, “is the cardinal emeritus of Hong Kong Zen,” who he said has carried out several “ultraconservative protests against the Pope, in which nuncio Viganò also participated.”

Cardinal Joseph Zen has vigorously opposed the Vatican’s deal with the Chinese Communist government, even accusing Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin of “shedding crocodile tears” over persecuted Catholics in China, but has continually spoken of Pope Francis with great respect. 

In the Nov. 22 interview, Tornielli also argued that the issue of sexual abuse of minors has been used as an opportunity for “blackmail and dossier wars.”  

“The real problem isn’t even this tremendous scandal that the Church is making efforts to resolve, but rather the exploitation to block careers and to launch accusations.” The dossier, he said, was used as part of a “political media circuit” aimed at opposing Pope Francis’s reforms. 

Tornielli said he hopes “the People of God somehow distance themselves from this way of living in the Church that even some powerful groups in the Church have.” He said he was “struck that the Pope invited the People of God to pray because Satan, the Great Accuser, wants to divide the Church from within.”

“Good for the Vatican”?

In comments to LifeSite, one informed source described Tornielli’s coverage of the Viganò testimonies as “prejudiced and unprofessional.”

But another source argued that Tornielli is “good for the Vatican.” 

“He’s circling over conservative fields, because he knows that the Pope’s reputation is in danger,” they said. “He’s shielding the pope, and that’s what’s going to be important now.” 

Pressed on what they meant by “good for the Vatican,” the source said Tornielli’s appointment as editorial director of the dicastery for communications is like oiling a “propaganda machine.”