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Gerard O’ConnellSeptember 14, 2023
Pope Francis talks with Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civilta Cattolica, while meeting journalists aboard his flight to Havana Feb. 12, 2016. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

Antonio Spadaro, S.J., the Italian Jesuit journalist and theologian, announced today that he will end his 12-year role as editor in chief of La Civiltá Cattolica on Sept. 30, and, by decision of Pope Francis, he will become undersecretary of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education on Jan. 1, 2024.

By decision of the superior general of the Society of Jesus, Arturo Sosa, S.J., Father Spadaro will be succeeded as editor in chief of La Civiltá Cattolica by the Portuguese Jesuit Nuno da Silva Gonçalves, S.J., a church historian who served as rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University from 2016 to 2022. Father da Silva Gonçalves, 65, is the first non-Italian to be appointed editor in chief of La Civiltá Cattolica since it was founded in 1850 as an Italian Jesuit review whose main articles are approved by the Vatican. He is likely to bring a new style to the role.

It had been rumored in Rome for some time that a change of editorship was in the offing, given that Father Spadaro, 57, has been a writer for the magazine for 25 years and editor in chief since 2011. He took up the editorial role under Benedict XVI and continued under Francis, the first Jesuit pope. The Sicilian Jesuit has played an important role in this pontificate since the Argentine pope granted him a groundbreaking interview in August 2013 that was published the following month in a number of Jesuit journals, including America.

Antonio Spadaro, S.J., the Italian Jesuit journalist and theologian, announced today that he will end his 12-year-long role as editor in chief of La Civiltá Cattolica on Sept. 30.

Since that first interview, Father Spadaro has been widely regarded as an authentic interpreter of the first Latin American pope and is considered an advisor who has the ear of the pope. As such, he has become an influential figure in the Catholic Church and a highly regarded communicator to the wider world. He has been part of the papal entourage for all international papal trips and had the privilege of sitting in on the private conversations that Francis held with Jesuit communities around the world on his visits to foreign countries, which Father Spadaro subsequently published in La Civiltá Cattolica.

Under Father Spadaro, La Civiltá Cattolica has developed and expanded in unprecedented ways. The magazine is produced by a “college” or team of Jesuit writers under the leadership of the editor in chief. During the pontificate of Francis, for example, Father Spadaro strengthened it by bringing into that “college” two Argentine Jesuit theologians who not only knew Francis well but also understood his thinking and the milieu in which it developed: Juan Carlos Scannone, S.J., well known for his Teologia del pueblo (Theology of the people), and Diego Fares, S.J., who was very close to Pope Francis and died in 2022.

Under Father Spadaro’s leadership, La Civiltá Cattolica has been transformed from being an illustrious Italian review into a significant international one, with contributions from Jesuits in more than 200 countries. It is now published in Italian and nine other languages: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese, Russian and Japanese, with a supplement in Hungarian, and, importantly, it appears in digital editions. Father Spadaro is particularly proud of the attention La Civiltá Cattolica has given to China with its Chinese edition, as he explained in his farewell letter to the review’s leadership that will be published in the different languages on Sept. 16.

Under Father Spadaro, La Civiltá Cattolica has developed and expanded in unprecedented ways.

In that letter, Father Spadaro recalls that as editor “I was given much trust” and said that “in the college of writers we shared surprises, joys, uncertainties and tensions.” He admits his role as editor “was not always easy.” Indeed, though he does not say so, part of the difficulty may have come from the fact that some in the Vatican questioned his readiness to take center stage; they would have preferred him to take a lower profile role given his close relationship with Francis. But he is good with the media, and journalists sought him out.

Certainly, under his editorial leadership, the review, true to its constitution, continued to reflect the thinking of the Vatican. But it also strove to do what Father Spadaro set out to do when he first took charge, that is, not just “to comment with prepared reflections” on various events, “but also to seek to anticipate the trends and to foresee their impact” so as to attract the reader’s attention. The 2,400 articles published during his 12-year tenure as editor often provoked lively reactions—and not always positive ones—but at the same time, they also stimulated considerable discussion. In addition to this, Father Spadaro edited many books, mostly related to the writings of Pope Francis, and these have provided rich material for a wider readership in different languages.

When Father Spadaro concludes his tenure on Sept. 30, he will immediately turn his attention to the Synod of Bishops on Synodality, which opens on Oct. 4, to which Pope Francis has appointed him as a member. After he begins his new posting in the Roman Curia on Jan. 1, Father Spadaro will continue to be part of the papal entourage on the foreign visits of Pope Francis and will no doubt continue his journalistic work, though in a different way.

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