Vermont Bishop Has Big Behind-the-Scenes Role During Papal Visit

Bishop Christopher Coyne of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, Vermont, has a busy week ahead of him as a media liaison to reporters from around the world who are covering the visit of Pope Francis to the United States.

“I'll be behind the scenes,” Coyne told necn in an interview last week inside the chapel at the diocese headquarters in South Burlington.

Coyne arrived in Washington, D.C. Sunday. During the Pope's visit to the U.S., Coyne will work inside the media centers set up in D.C., New York, and Philadelphia that will host reporters who need space to write, edit, and file their stories.

Coyne chairs a communications committee for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He has extensive public relations experience, from when he served as the spokesman of the Boston Archdiocese during the depths of the priest sex abuse crisis.

Coyne told necn the Conference of Catholic Bishops received more than 8,000 requests for credentials from more than 600 media outlets. “That’s more than for the Super Bowl,” Coyne noted.

Helping journalists accurately understand the workings of the Catholic Church is Coyne’s prime mission.

“When people have questions about church protocol, church teaching, why we're doing what we're doing, church liturgies, whatever it may be, they'll come to me,” Coyne said. “If I can get the answer right then, I will, if not, I will get it for them.”

Coyne said he will be joined by several dozen other bishops from around the country inside those media centers. The job may be tiring, because the media centers are scheduled to be open 24/7. Still, Coyne said he is excited to be part of such a historic visit.

One downside of the assignment, however, is that Coyne said he will be unlikely to be able to attend many of Pope Francis’s events. He will be needed inside the media centers and won’t be able to afford the bottlenecks and logjams that will come with traveling from the events, Coyne explained.
Coyne said he will get to leave the media workspaces to attend a prayer service with the Pope and other United States bishops on Wednesday. Coyne said he does not know if he’ll have a chance to personally greet Pope Francis, but said even being in the same area as him should be inspiring and unforgettable.

Bishop Coyne has a strong following on Twitter and Facebook, and said he plans to post updates on his week to social media if Vermont’s Catholics want to catch up with his travels. 

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