All the Pontiff’s Men: How do you get a job on a Vatican council?

(Slate.com) Pope Benedict XVI sent the first papal tweet Wednesday, telling followers “I bless all of you from my heart.” The pope’s tweets will be overseen by a group called the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. How do you wind up on the Pontifical Council for Social Communications?

Get to know someone on the inside. Hiring at the Vatican is informal, without job postings or résumé drop-boxes. In most cases, someone inside the Vatican or a well-connected bishop recommends a colleague, either a member of the clergy or a lay person, he met in school or while working on church business. Specialized training and relevant experience don’t seem to be as important as general competence, because the councils rely heavily on expert consultants to guide them. (The current head of the Council for Social Communications, Claudio Maria Celli, doesn’t have a degree in communications, and he never worked in mass media.) It’s not clear whether the Vatican’s secretary of state or even the pope himself makes the final decision on personnel matters, but it’s possible. For all its influence, the Roman Curia—the administrative structure of the Catholic Church—has fewer than 3,000 employees. To put that into perspective, 12,000 people work at the Wal-Mart headquarters, and turnover is almost certainly higher in Bentonville, Ark. than in Rome.

Most Vatican councils have permanent staff members drawn from the lay population, so you don’t have to join the clergy to work at the Vatican. Some lay people studying at the pontifical universities in Rome have been hired at the Vatican after working as volunteers. Most of the council members who serve as cardinals or bishops come to Italy only for annual or semiannual meetings, giving the lay staff plenty of authority in day-to-day affairs. If you’re certain you want to spend your career serving at the pleasure of the pontiff, though, consider attending the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, a college that serves as the West Point of the Roman Catholic Church. Scores of high-ranking church officials, including five popes, are graduates. [more]

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