by Gordon Nary
Gordon: Where did earn your Masters degree, in what field, and why did you choose this field of study?
Nicoletta: I received my degree in philosophy from the Pontifical Gregorian University, but then continued my specialized studies in various fields, including the management and organization of not-for-profit companies, marketing and communication.
These are the years when, in Italy, there was a profound social divide because of the great economic crisis which also followed the changeover from the lira to the euro. The tendency of young people was to move abroad to look for work or to study. I had the opportunity to work and continue my education and therefore I decided that I would never leave my country if I had the opportunity.
The resulting work and opportunities have taken me into the world of publishing and communication, areas on which I have developed my current profession.
Nonetheless, the hope was always that of being able to serve the Church where I had decided to train with my studies, the one for which I would have liked to continue to grow together professionally and on a personal level.
Gordon: When did you start serving as as Public Relations Officer & Press Officer at the Pontifical Oriental Institute and what are your primary responsibilities, and what are some of your reports are you proudest of?
Nicoletta: In September 2012 I arrived at the Pontifical Oriental Institute with a great opportunity born following the organization of an International Conference on the Liturgy and Iconostasis in Eastern Catholic churches. It was proposed by the Rector of the Institute to start collaboration to give life to an office that had never been created yet, namely that of the Public Relations and Press Office. I received this proposal with great enthusiasm as an opportunity to serve not only the Church, but also the "OrientalChurches", given that I am a Greek Catholic.
The first responsibilities were essentially in creating relationships, para-academic activities such as Congresses, events that would bring attention and interest to the academic mission of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, which soon approached the completion of the centenary of the Foundation by the will of Pope Benedict XV in 1917.
Certainly, the most demanding activity of the communication campaigns and promotion of academic events included diplomatic relations with church leaders and diplomats at the Holy See, to whom very important attention had to be paid in the construction of discussion tables. But being a university, it had the advantage of being a forthright place, open to the hardest conversations.
Among the many events, certainly those I will never forget for commitment, emotion and even satisfaction, were the four major congresses for the centennial of the Oriental Institute. But we will remain indelible forever: the opening congress was dedicated to new hopes for the rebirth of Syria.
All the Patriarchs of the Eastern Churches joined the event, where exponents also from the Orthodox Church and from the University of al-Azhar participated … I think of what has been done up to now on "human brotherhood" and in these hours in Bahrain. It may be said that this is the greatest work of which I am truly proud.
Gordon: What are some of the challenges that Oriental Catholic Churches face?
Nicoletta: It has a huge responsibility now. Almost 9 months have passed since the beginning of the war in Ukraine and the years of conflict in the Middle East are not counted by now, rather than in Syria, but they also affect Ethiopia, Eritrea, all the territories where the Eastern Churches are located.
So the question is, what is the challenge? It has certainly survived as an identity of being and cultural identity, I like to use the cultural expression thinking of the Mediterranean as a cradle, a shore where "THE" cultures have landed and been welcomed for centuries. Christians in certain territories are in the minority and, as such, are in danger of disappearing.
We have to think about the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church led by Major Archbishop Svjatoslav Ševčuk, as a church that we have to embrace for tenacity, for charity and for the totally abandoned to God.
Allow me to think about the many married priests with children who continued to be close to the people without abandoning the churches, even under the bombs. Just as it was in Syria, in Iraq ... The challenge today is to survive without "despair", because the Orientals look to Christ Risen from the dead, as the King of Glory who "trampled death with death", as says the hymn of Resurrection on Easter night.
Gordon: When were you appointed Press Officer for Vatican Dicastery for Eastern Churches and what are your primary responsibilities?
Nicoletta: This is not a real appointment, but rather a mandate to serve. Simultaneously with the work at the Oriental Institute, I served in parallel for the communication of activities often shared with the Dicastery for the Oriental Churches on which the institute itself depends. Indeed, the Cardinal Prefect, Leonardo Sandri, is still a Grand Chancellor.
In 2015 preparatory activities began for the Centenary of the "Congregation" (from June 2022 Dicastery) for the Oriental Churches, which gave life a few months after its birth, at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in 1917. It was then that the work of sharing intensified and so shortly thereafter I received the official mandate to continue this service collaboration that today we carry out on several levels. The greatest responsibility is to look to the East and to the West, always looking to the universal Church. We need to be attentive as we listen to the situation and circumstances regarding the use of language.
The life of the Eastern Churches spans the world: from the territories where they are born to those countries that have welcomed communities in the Diaspora such as South America, the United States, Canada etc ... A "sensitive" multiculturalism that goes from India, crosses the Mediterranean, passes through the Black Sea, North Africa then goes beyond the Ocean, which must be respected first of all in global communication.
Gordon: In what countries are the Eastern Churches located?
Nicoletta: The Eastern Churches touch the map of the Byzantine Empire up to India (the preaching territory of St. Thomas) where the Malabar and Malankara churches are located. But today it is not entirely correct to circumscribe these Churches only to the territories of origin such as the Middle East, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, all the Slavic countries, Armenia, Georgia, Romania etc ... History teaches us that we must look at where cultural identities have put down roots and to do this we must also look at the Diaspora or the territories where the Eastern Churches have been welcomed and continue to exist and grow. Speaking of what has been said, the Dicastery in 2018 published, after 40 years, the new edition of the historical work "The Catholic East" which draws an atlas of the Eastern Churches in the world.
Gordon: Who is your favorite saint and why is that saint your favorite?
Nicoletta: I never thought that someone would ask me this question ... I am a Greek Catholic of the Italian Albanian Church (Eparchy of Piana degli Albanesi in Sicily) and we have many liturgical celebrations with many holy martyrs and each of them accompanies, marks the daily prayer. I can certainly tell you that my saint is Saint Paul, "the apostle to the people".
A saint to whom we are linked in the family not only for devotional emotional ties but today perhaps I can say that he is the saint to whom we have dedicated the life of our son Paolo, my husband and me. My husband is a priest, he is Syrian and son of the MelkiteChurch, and today incardinated in my Eparchy of origin. It is a symbolic value that departs from Damascus, from the "Earth" of Syria, where Saint Paul's Christian journey begins with his conversion. Today, we continue on our journey to communicate beyond borders and beyond conflict.
Gordon: Thank you for a beautiful and incisive interview.