Irish-born Bishop Paul Tighe represents Vatican at global tech conference

16 Mar, 2017 | News

Irish-born Bishop Paul Tighe has addressed an international tech conference on behalf of the Vatican. Bishop Tighe, who is adjunct secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, was in Austin, Texas for the annual South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) where he joined a panel to discuss the theme of ‘Compassionate Disruption’. The panel was one of the festival’s first steps to address the question of the place of faith in secular discussions. Bishop Tighe was joined on the panel by Catholic communicators Helen Osman, Michael Hertl and Christopher Krachten.

Bishop Tighe told the large crowd gathered inside the Hyatt Regency Hotel that the Vatican would not likely play a centralised role in defining a Catholic brand online. The Church’s real strength, he said, comes from the local level, “Starbucks is Starbucks wherever you go. McDonald’s is McDonald’s wherever you go. Churches are different in the different parts of the world you go and that’s the richness of liturgy, the music, the language and everything else.”

“I think we have to be very careful about not trying to be overly uniform,” he continued. “But, I do think there’s value, at the same time, in saying, let’s define standards and language that would work together.”

Bishop Tighe led something of a digital revolution at the Vatican during his eight-year term as secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, which ended in 2015.

During his SXSW address he acknowledged that the Catholic Church is an unconventional place to turn to when it comes to communication. Referring to how papal election results are revealed to the world, he said, “Here we are talking about social media, digital media and new technologies, and in the Vatican, and the Church our biggest communications moment is delivered by smoke.”

Bishop Tighe told attendees that social media is marred when there is acrimonious discussion. Catholics, he said, must be good citizens online and avoid giving in to trolls, a term for social media users who aim to solely deride people online. He said that Catholics, and the Vatican, must keep a mission in mind.

“One of the things we were very clear about from the beginning was that we’re not going into social media as a brand trying to measure performance,” Bishop Tighe said. “We’re ultimately in social media as an agency that is speaking of something other than ourselves, which is trying to share the good news of the Gospel.”

That’s not to say that the Church can’t learn lessons from social media analytics, he said. “We need to be professional in what we do,” he told the crowd, before adding that key performance indicator data should not “block what God is trying to do”.

The SXSW Interactive Festival took place from 10 – 14 March with Bishop Tighe speaking on 12 March.

Bishop Tighe is originally from Navan, Co Meath, and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Dublin in 1983. After several postings and a period at the Mater Dei Institute of Education in Dublin, he became head of the theology department there in 2000. Bishop Tighe went on to take up a role as Director of the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of Dublin. He went on to establish its Office for Public Affairs.  On 30 November 2007 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, deputy to its President, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli. On 9 July 2014 he was appointed secretary to the Committee for Vatican media, a special commission headed by Lord Patten of Barnes to recommend how to restructure the Vatican’s communications efforts. On 19 December 2015 Pope Francis appointed him as Adjunct Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture and Titular Bishop of Drivastum. He was consecrated as bishop on 27 February 2016 by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See.

Bishop Tighe delivered the keynote address ‘The Church in a Digital World – Sharing The Good News’, in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, at a conference to mark the 40th anniversary of the Catholic Communications Office in November 2015.

Pictured above (l to r) are: Bishop Paul Tighe, Broadcaster Audrey Carville, and Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh at the CCO 40th anniversary conference in Maynooth. 



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