ROME Hostilities are rife at TelePace, or Peace TV, the broadcaster with Vatican ties, that until recently beamed daily coverage of the pope’s prayers and pronouncements into Catholic households from Bologna to Brisbane.
Journalists at TelePace are up in arms against Monsignor Guido Todeschini, the powerful prelate who founded the web in 1977, who shuttered its Rome news operation last week because, he says, of an 80% drop in donations that finance the small channel.
However, Italy’s journalists’ union claims the office near St. Peter’s was closed in retaliation for four staffers formally protesting below-minimum-wage pay and medieval work practices.
The reporters — three of whom are women — produced the world’s only TV report dedicated to the pope’s day.
Management at TelePace allegedly called meetings to inquire whether unmarried femme employees were virgins, monitored phone calls and inflicted other “psychological violence,” according to newspaper La Stampa.
No one at TelePace was available for comment. The Vatican press office says the matter is “an internal affair” between the journos union and TelePace, with which it is not officially affiliated.
Todeschini has been summoned for questioning by the Italian Journalists Council, which has also demanded to see the broadcaster’s books.
One theory circulating in Vatican circles is that the closure was mandated by the new press secretary to Benedict XVI, Father Federico Lombardi, who wants more direct control over papal coverage.
Lombardi until recently headed the Vatican Television Center, CTV, which feeds footage to broadcasters but does not operate a TV channel.
Sources say plans are being hatched for CTV to launch its own satellite station.
Meanwhile TelePace, which beams via satellite in Europe, North Africa, North America and Australia, is showing CTV footage of the pope’s Sunday Angelus address, his rosary and Holy Mass, plus religious music concerts and interviews conducted by Todeschini. But no more daily pope news.
“Every day we brought into your homes with punctuality, professionalism and passion, the daily life of the pope, the Holy See and the Church of Rome,” said a TelePace anchor on-air last month, taking his leave from viewers.
“Our voice is being turned off; it’s not our choice.”