The Rome-based and Italian-focused Missionary International Service News Agency, MISNA, is being shuttered after 18 years of signal work reporting from the existential, social and geographical peripheries of the world – telling the stories of people the world’s great and powerful little count, and easily discard.
The reason given for the decision to shut down the operation is the need to focus limited resources on more direct missionary field work. The decision is a strategic choice on the part of the contributing missionary organizations, and an entirely defensible one, all things being equal.
Unfortunately, all things are not equal.
“The Church is not exempt from its own social doctrine. The Church and Church organizations are accountable to the Church’s own social teaching, especially as far as their employees are concerned.”
– Alessia DeLuca, MISNA
The journalists, editors, and staff at MISNA were given less than a month’s notice of their operation’s shut-down and of the consequent termination of their positions: eleven lay people all told (the editor-in-chief was a cleric).
Said simply: the MISNA’s financial backers – missionary organizations themselves – pulled the organization’s funding and fired the staff at Christmas.
“The Church is not exempt from its own social doctrine,” MISNA journalist and representative Alessia de Luca told Roman Observations. “The Church and Church organizations are accountable to the Church’s own social teaching, especially as far as their employees are concerned,” she also said.
De Luca went on to say, “That the treatment MISNA staff have received comes in concommitance with the abrupt closure of a nearly 20 year-old news organization that has sought to tell precisely those stories, which Pope Francis himself most cares be told, is particularly unfortunate: we do not understand how, as Pope Francis asks for more attention towards the forgotten people and the places where humanity suffers, Church organizations decide to close down an outfit dedicated to the service of the poor, the marginalized, and the exploited – the people really living on ‘the outskirts’ that Pope Francis so desires us to go out and serve.”
The journalists and editorial staff of the moribund outfit have written an open letter to Pope Francis, asking for relief and redress. The full text of that letter is reproduced, below:
Dear Pope Francis,
We are MISNA’s dedicated journalists, a small missionary agency that for nearly twenty years has reported about the “outskirts” of your beloved Africa, Asia and Latin America. Just a few days after Christmas, on December 31, this “voice of the voiceless” is at risk of being silenced. In a decision that we see as both tragic and unexplainable, and symbolically like slamming that same Holy Door you opened in the Central African Republic’s capital Bangui, the Missionary Congregations, who own MISNA (Comboni Missionaries, Consolata Missionaries, Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions and Xaverian Missionaries), are choosing to suspend publication.
These are the same Missionary Congregations, spurred by a dynamic Comboni missionary, Fr. Giulio Albanese, who created this little but noteworthy missionary media source in 1997. “If every missionary in every corner of the world – from Congo to the “ends of the earth” – has a satellite phone, we will have a truly unique, independent and inspired report”: this was the idea behind the birth and foundation of MISNA, and that today, we still believe, is as relevant as ever. This is what motivates us with heart and commitment to try and change the approach to news.
Nevertheless, the Missionary Congregations owning MISNA now say that they are so “tired”, weighed down by costs and “at the end of their energies” to the point of feeling that the survival of their own creation is useless. This would be a terrible mistake: without MISNA, a heavy price will be paid by the young Churches, the peripheries and the civil societies calling for social justice, which is a precondition of peace. While the idolization of money silences the voice of the poor.
We begged in every possible way for our owners to sit at a table with us to find a solution. We offered to continue our work, cutting our salaries, to do everything – as laypeople, working alongside the missionaries – imaginable to keep MISNA alive. But our voices were also not heard.
Dear Francis, Hear our call.
Please circulate this letter, and this story.
Christopher R. Altieri, PhD