Issues of faith in public life dominate world news, but religion is often misunderstood or ignored in media coverage. It’s understandable. The world’s religions are the result of hundreds of years of history, prayer and tradition, and this is not easy to reflect and to explain in newspaper, radio, TV or via new-media formats. Many journalists are seeking keys to unlock this complex beat that sparks enormous public interest.

The Holy See, the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church are relevant actors in international news, and therefore subjects of universal journalistic interest. Now, the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome is offering the fourth edition of its intensive one-week seminar in English, The Church Up Close: Covering Catholicism in the Age of Francis. The seminar, from September 8-14, 2014, is designed for foreign journalists who cover the Vatican from afar. The seminar is built on its successful monthly seminars in Italian for Rome-based Vatican correspondents.

For the sake of context, it is important to note that most editors are still reluctant to embrace religion news. Particularly in Europe, this situation is inscribed in a broader frame. Religion journalists are mostly general reporters who cover religion as a sub-beat. And many editors of liberal background believe that these reporters are acting in a partisan way even if they are working for non-confessional media. Accuracy, fairness and balance are key in religion journalism.

Previous Church Up Close seminars were attended by journalists from media outlets such as The New York Times and USA Today (USA), The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times and the BBC (UK), The Record (Australia), The Southern Cross (South Africa), CBC and El Universal (Venezuela), Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Switzerland) and Radio Renascença (Portugal). Maria-Paz Lopez, chair of the IARJ, spoke at the third edition of this seminar, held in September2012 in Rome.

The seminar combines conferences, interactive workshops, personal encounters, and on-site visits to places such as St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, the historic center of Rome, and attendance to a general audience with Pope Francis. Conference sessions deal with issues such as culture and religion (interreligious dialogue, marriage laws, science and faith, bioethics), the Church and the media (public opinion, Vatican coverage, transparency) and the nature and structure of the Holy See (its organization, and role in international politics).

The seminar costs €850 (travel and lodging not included). The Church Up Close is organized by the School of Communications of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and the Association ISCOM ( The seminar is sponsored by Our Sunday Visitor Institute and counts on the collaboration of the Italian Associazione dei Vaticanisti (the independent association of journalists accredited by the Holy See). For more information: