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Covering the


If you’re reading this, your editor probably just (a) assigned you to cover a

papal trip or an event at the Vatican, or (b) asked you to get comments from

Rome regarding a local issue in which Holy See policy might come into play.

Headed by the pope, the Holy See is the central authority of the Catholic

Church. Technically it differs from the Vatican, which refers to the indepen-

dent state established by the Lateran Pact with Italy in 1929 as Vatican City

State, the smallest sovereign nation in the world. As noted, Vatican City State

is distinct from the Holy See, which refers to the pope and his Curia.

Just as the U.S. president has a cabinet of officials overseeing various areas

of national government, the pope has the Roman Curia, which oversees the

various facets of church life around the world. Familiarity with the Curia and

knowing which departments focus on which facets are extremely helpful in

tackling any story concerning the Vatican, since knowing whom to contact

can be half the battle. If you’re about to book a plane ticket for Rome, there

are several types of events you might be covering; and before you go it’s wise

to get a handle on what to expect, be it a canonization ceremony, your local

archbishop receiving his pallium, or the election of a new pope (not to men-

tion the process of actually getting accredited to cover the event). Outside the

Curia itself, there are many resources to help you get acquainted—from the

official Vatican newspaper and other publications to the American seminary

in Rome. Whatever your assignment, the following information should help

get you started.


If you’re traveling to Rome, apply ahead of time for temporary accreditation to

the Press Office of the Holy See (

Sala Stampa della Santa Sede

). You can sur-

vive without it, but it makes covering events easier, and the press office itself

can be a useful resource.