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Professor Speaks at Vatican, Meets Pope

A Westmont professor’s work about media, digital technology and the church resulted in an invitation to speak at the Vatican and meet with Pope Francis on November 11. Sociologist Felicia Wu Song, lectured about “The Good News in a Digital Age: A Call to the Contemplative” at a plenary assembly of the Vatican's Dicastery for Communication. Later, she was invited to join members of the dicastery to hear Pope Francis speak about the importance of inclusive and truthful communication to a small group in the Apostolic Palace's Clementine Hall. Following the talk, she greeted the Pope with a handshake and personal introduction.

Pope Francis Gathering
Photos with Pope Francis courtesy Vatican Media

“My talk at the plenary assembly was well-received and generated many stimulating conversations among lay media professionals, archbishops, bishops and sisters about what types of digital engagements the Catholic Church ought to have in order to reach its parishioners around the world, young and old,” Song says.

As a participant, she toured the Vatican Gardens and Vatican News, the news portal of the Holy See, including Vatican Radio, the daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano and Vatican Media, which has large followings on several social media platforms. “I even got to see the master control room where all the visual media gets green-lit before broadcast,” she says. “It was all pretty incredible, similar to getting a tour of the New York Times or CNN offices and meeting people who make the magic happen, but knowing they’re transmitting content globally in 30-40 different languages. It was just amazing.”

Song with Natasa Govekar, director of the Theological-Pastoral Directorate
Song with Natasa Govekar, director of the Theological-Pastoral Directorate

The Dicastery of Communications, which oversees the entirety of the Catholic Church's communications, and its global members only gather together every few years. Song, author of the book “Restless Devices: Recovering Personhood, Presence, and Place in the Digital Age,” was asked to speak at the gathering after a member of the dicastery heard her lecturing at the University of Notre Dame in the summer.

Song, who earned a doctorate in sociology from the University of Virginia, graduated from Yale and earned a master’s degree in communication studies from Northwestern. She taught at Louisiana State University for seven years before joining the Westmont faculty in 2013.