Roma - (Vatican Radio) - Calling on all creative Catholics with ideas to share to promote the Church’s message for World Communications Day, focusing this year on the theme of social networks as the ‘new space for evangelization’. This year the annual Communications Day is being celebrated on Sunday May 12th and ahead of that date the Vatican’s Council which helps draw up the pope’s message is urging all dioceses and bishops conferences in countries around the globe to share any inspiring ideas and materials via a specially dedicated section of the Council’s website.
Last year, the Latin American Church in particular responded with a wealth of written and audio-visual aids to help share the papal message way beyond the confines of the Catholic world. This year members of the Council are hoping for a similar input from others countries as well, as they put it, to help shape “a new frontier of communion among Catholic communicators.”
Fr Ariel Beramendi from Bolivia works at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and is the brains behind this multi-lingual project – he told Philippa Hitchen more about the initiative and about the way the first Latin American pope is himself shaping a new way of communicating with the world…
"The experience is very interesting because people from all over the world send us their material and we found, for example last year some rap music - talking about silence, because last year's message was about silence - and some videos, some interviews and reflections, some prayers...it's very interesting to discover the creativity of Catholic communicators in other continents...
I would say there are two different ways of communicating with the two popes...Francis is Latin American and he's just being what a Latin American is, stretching out his hand, or kissing a baby or hugging a friend, that's what a Latin America does, it's the way we are. So communication becomes part of our way of being and this encourages us to communicate, not just with technical means, but the Pope now encourages us to communicate with our lives, our attitudes and our personalities..."
Text from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/articolo.asp?c=686668
of the Vatican Radio website
Malawi - The Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) has entered into an evangelization partnership with Airtel Malawi to bring the gospel closer to people through Short Message Services (SMS).
ECM secretary general Fr. George Buleya confirmed the partnership during preparatory meeting for the Association Member of Episcopal Conference for East Africa (AMECEA) held recently in Lilongwe. The AMECEA meeting is scheduled for 2014 in Malawi.
"To join the service, the subscriber has to register with Airtel Malawi, and start receiving the messages by sending the key word to 51992. The subscriber will start receiving an SMS containing the Readings of the daily Liturgy, as well as a quotation from the Gospel. They will also have an opportunity of receiving current affairs news either from the Episcopal Conference of Malawi or the diocese/archdiocese with which he or she subscribed with," said Fr. Buleya adding that more details are given on www.ecmmw.org
Pope Paul VI defined evangelization as 'bringing the Gospel into the social classes of humanity. The Pontifical Council of Social Communications announced on September 29 2012 that the Pope chose social networks as the theme for the Catholic Church's next World Communications Day.
One of the most important challenges facing the task of evangelisation today is that which is emerging from the digital environment. Pope Benedict XVI calls attention to this particular topic in the context of the Year of Faith...reads a statement communiqué from Vatican on next year's World Communications Day.
"Such an approach, which will serve to create a more dynamic and humane digital world, requires a new way of thinking. It is not simply a question of how to use the internet as a means of evangelisation, but instead of how to evangelise in a context where the lives of people find expression also in the digital arena," reads the statement.
The Second Vatican Council's 1963 decree "Inter Mirifica" called for the establishment of World Communications Day. The decree said the observance is intended to help teach the Catholic faithful how to "spread and defend the truth and foster Christian influence in human society."
(http://www.cyberteologia.it) - Father Federico Lombardi SJ – the Director of Vatican Radio, the Vatican Press Office and the Vatican Television Centre – delivered the 2009 World Communications Day lecture in London. Speaking on May 21 2009 at Allen Hall Seminary in Chelsea, Fr Lombardi spoke of the challenges and opportunities that the new media landscape presents the Church with – especially the Vatican.
The changes that have taken place in social communications during recent years and decades are obvious to all who have ears to hear and eyes to see.
Communications experts in academia are constantly studying all the phenomena associated with these great changes, and are therefore best placed to discuss the broader picture in abstract generality.
However, I live these changes personally and concretely. I am immersed in the use of various communications media, and so also in their transformations.
I got my start in communications as a writer for La Civiltà Cattolica, a cultural review that continues to publish thoughtful analysis today, just as it did when it was founded 160 years ago. Then I was sent to work in radio, and then to a television production centre; my experience with these media introduced me to, and forced me to come to grips with, the rapid development of communications technology. In order to communicate the relevance of the Christian message to current events, I also had to grasp the ways in which these new technologies were affecting life in the newsroom and behind the editor's desk.
The advent of satellite distribution systems, particularly for radio, gave us the chance to bring Vatican Radio's linguistically diverse programming to vastly larger audiences across the world; the introduction of digital production profoundly changed the work methods and the professional profiles of both journalists and technicians. Then came the Internet, and with it new ways of gathering and exchanging information: instantaneous communication via email, and widespread, channelled content distribution on the web.
These past few years at the Vatican Press Office have shown me the need to look for ways to establish a more organic and constructive dialogue and exchange between the communications organs of the Holy See and today's world of social communications – for today's communications environment is rapidly becoming something vastly different from that which my generation first experienced it.
In April 2009, a document prepared by Microsoft entitled 'Europe Logs On: European Internet Trends of Today and Tomorrow', offered the following piece of information: if it continues to grow at the projected rate, then by June of 2010 internet use will surpass traditional television use among European consumers, reaching an average of more than 14 hours per week, to television's 11.5.
In 2008, the Internet surpassed all other media except television as the principal source of information for national and international current events. Its rise continues and seems unstoppable.
I consider myself interested in and responsible for many different vectors of communication in the Church – for communication to many different countries where a wide array of situations are to be encountered and where a broad spectrum of different circumstances obtain. I am well aware that in a large part of the world, communication happens in ways that are very different from those found in more developed countries. It is also true that even in the more developed countries, there are palpable differences that need to be taken into account. The document I just cited speaks of a 'digital divide', separating North from South as far as internet access and use is concerned.
From the Church's point of view, leaving those with fewer possibilities on the margins is simply not an option. For us, the poor and developing countries are at least as important as the wealthy, if not more. So, we cannot leave the traditional technologies and forms of communication by the wayside, for they are still necessary to serve a large part of humanity. At the same time, we cannot but be attentive to the direction in which communications are moving, nor can we allow ourselves to lose touch with the latest advancements in the world of communications.
Reflection and debate regarding the way the Church communicates both internally and externally – that is, with her members and with the larger world – have intensified recently, not only because of discussions about the Pope and the Church, but also because of the way those discussions were conducted. The coverage was widespread and just about every news outlet took an editorial stance at one point or another. Throughout it all, many different issues got confused, but no one can doubt that the whole business did raise some very real questions. It is our job to get to the bottom of those questions and then figure out something useful to say about them.
A first and obvious consideration regards the speed and intensity with which news spreads, especially sensational news. Internet communications have greatly increased both the speed with which the shockwaves spread, and their reach. Communication happens around the clock, 24/7. News no longer reaches people to the rhythm of the morning paper or the TV bulletins.
Additionally, the vast and ever-growing variety of voices makes it more and more difficult to attract people's attention, and this results in the tendency to sensationalise news, to 'spice up' the headlines. Many journalists and news outfits are endlessly searching for the next big scoop, as though getting it were the one thing that, in the midst of the great sea of words and images, can give their existence some sort of affirmation.
We are all aware of this situation, and we see the continuous risks, but we can't seem to understand how to fix it.
Let's consider more closely some recent cases, like Pope Benedict XVI's Regensburg discourse, the Bishop Williamson affair, or the controversy over Pope Benedict XVI's statements regarding condoms and the spread of HIV and AIDS in Africa.
Sensational reaction to each event came quickly, ranged broadly and penetrated deeply.
Answers to these critiques were not lacking. They came not only from me through the Press Office of the Holy See, but also from voices well-disposed to the Church. These responses, however, were neither as numerous nor as 'media-friendly' as the voices of the critics that occasioned them, and, though they were not overly slow in coming, they were nevertheless in a certain sense rather late, with respect to the surprise effect of the original shockwave.
Once the first wave of criticism had passed, though, people were able to do some hard thinking – and they did. The subsequent reflections were serious, penetrating and well-argued; it took a while for word of them to make its way through the communications channels and reach the public, but eventually the public did hear about and really benefit from these contributions to the discussion.
I am convinced that the question of Christian-Muslim relations has been addressed more frankly, more seriously and with greater depth after Regensburg than before; that the clamorous response to the declarations of Bishop Williamson not only allowed us to make the true positions of the Pope and the Church regarding the Holocaust to be more widely known and clearly understood, but also served to strengthen Catholic-Jewish relations and dialogue; that there is real hope that re-establishment of the conversation with the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre might lead to a deeper and more balanced reading of Vatican II in the direction of a hermeneutic of renewal in continuity with the Church's Tradition; that the debate over condoms is leading to greater understanding and awareness of what truly effective HIV/AIDS prevention strategy is in Africa and elsewhere.
I would like at this point to make something clear: I am not saying that everything we have done and are doing vis à vis Vatican communications is perfect. I do think, however, that in a world such as ours, we would be deluding ourselves if we thought that communication can always be carefully controlled, or that it can always be conducted smoothly and as a matter of course.
Is there any great institution or personality that, finding itself constantly in the limelight, is not the object of frequent criticism? We have dozens of ready examples in Presidents and Prime Ministers – why ought we to think that the Pope or the Church, in a secular world such as ours, ought to be an exception?
Whenever we face sensitive topics, we must inevitably proceed dialectically, from the statement of the position, to criticism, to a clearer and more penetrating response. It is a mistake to think that we ought to avoid debate. We must always seek to conduct debate in a way that leads to a better understanding of the Church's position, and we must never get discouraged.
We might add that the way such debates unfold is new, as well. Debate is no longer generally driven by the contributions of a few well-known, trusted and easily recognizable voices, for example the op-ed writers of the major newspapers. The chorus of voices that take part in debate over issues today is much larger and more diverse; the membership of that chorus transcends the traditional limits of language and culture, it is indeed international and even global.
So, we need to look further afield, and we also need to broaden our outlook. Today we approach the problem from the specific point of view of the Church, or of the Pope's image, or of the Christian truths we desire to proclaim. The problem, however, is not ours alone. It would be ridiculous to think so. It is a general problem, involving the family and the institutions of the state and civil society. The problem regards the ability to have and to maintain sound points of reference in the flow of communications in the world.
In seeking the right road for the Church, we are also looking for those roads, which might be interesting and useful for everyone.
Living in this world
We all live in the same world, and the Church teaches us to look on this world realistically – but She also teaches us to view the world with trust, and above all, with love.
The positive tone of the whole teaching of the Church on social communications is striking. Just look at the names of the magisterial documents: Miranda prorsus, Inter mirifica ('Among the wonderful'), Communio et progressio – even the message with which Pius XI inaugurated Vatican Radio in 1931 is full of expressions of trust in the ability of the radio to serve the cause of good in the world.
Inspired by this Magisterial teaching, we have always sought to make the best possible use of the available tools – the 'traditional' tools of communication, if you will – but now we find ourselves immersed in a new stage of our journey.
To be sure, we have to be aware of the risks and the ambiguities that attend this stage, the enormous potential for manipulation and moral corruption that are nested in modern social communications. As potential for use increases, so does the potential for misuse.
As we know unless we are naïve, the internet presents very grave risks, and poses crucial formative challenges that no one – not families, not schools, not society as a whole – may ignore. There is also great potential for good, and the Church's attitude encourages us to recognise this potential in its every manifestation, and to insert every good element possible into the wide world of communications, like the wheat that grows in the field along with the darnel.
The Pope's message for this year's World Day for Social Communications is in this sense an exemplary document and a rich source for reflection and encouragement. Titled, New Technologies, New Relationships. Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship, the message is driven by a fundamental strategic insight: the need to speak to 'the digital generation.'
The Pope knows that the Church will be an efficacious presence in the world that is taking shape only to the extent that She succeeds in keeping the truths of the faith in close touch with the emerging culture and the younger, growing generations. This is why he puts such emphasis on relationships: 'new technologies, new relationships.'
The whole world of social communications is concerned with relationships: among persons, groups, whole peoples – but just which relationships do we want to nurture and develop? What substance and to what end? In what spirit?
The impressive development of social networks, of content and information exchange, of the desire to comment on and intervene in every discussion of every topic, tells us that the internet has given rise to an omni-directional flow of transversal and personal communications, the scope of which was unimaginable until very recently.
One of the biggest challenges facing us at present is that of interactivity, and, I would say, of 'positive interactivity'. How ought we to tackle this challenge at all levels of the Church's life? For me specifically, the challenge presents itself to the communications efforts of the Holy See, and our experience at Vatican Radio comes to mind. In recent years the internet has been an important tool that has made it possible for us to deliver content to countless users of all kinds. Now, however, the reality of the situation that is emerging is one in which the great thing is not simply content distribution, but increasingly greater interactivity.
This is an extremely complex and difficult area that requires enormous commitment of all kinds of resources. Being able to receive comments is not enough: we need to develop a structural capacity to respond clearly and competently to the questions that arise, and that takes manpower, time and money.
At the end of January this year, in partnership with Vatican Radio and CTV (the Vatican Television Centre), we opened a YouTube channel with regular video news broadcasts in four languages. At Easter, we broadcast the whole of Pope Benedict XVI's Easter Message with complete subtitles in 27 different languages – that's a YouTube record, by the way! We are on our way towards an active Internet presence, though for the moment it is a basically one-directional presence, and will be until we understand the best way to establish interactive dialogue with our visitors.
For me, the problem is profound and serious – it is, in a certain sense, an ecclesiological problem. I mean to say that we at Vatican Radio and CTV worked hard to develop a successful strategy that integrated our Rome-based service with the Catholic TV and radio stations throughout the world. We built a network through which we provide information and programming that deal with the Church on a universal level, while regional and national Catholic stations provide coverage of their respective areas. We created a communications network that mirrors the structure of the Church and the various levels of service to the Church, from the Pope to the Bishops' Conferences to the diocesan level, always seeking to promote integration and dialogue while respecting the different levels of competence and responsibility.
Just as we began to congratulate ourselves on our success, the Internet came along and began destroying, or at least confusing this logic of distinction and complementarity of levels! Internet navigators move more freely in the global network and do not hesitate to speak directly to people and institutions on all levels, wherever they find them.
The offices of Chancellor Merkel and President Obama are working to develop Internet services aimed at responding to queries from individual citizens; several dioceses and Bishops' Conferences have similar initiatives. Should the Vatican, too, be working in this direction on a global level, and if so, how? How can we correctly promote the presence of the Pope in the life of the whole Church – that is, how can we use this technology to make his presence felt in the local Churches throughout the world without contributing to the creation or growth of a centralistic mentality that is not only inopportune, but at loggerheads with the right articulation and proper autonomy of the local Church? Deep down, I realise that the small step we have taken with YouTube is just the beginning of a long journey, and that our next steps must be taken with trust, and also with prudence.
We must not be of this world
In our service to the Church, we need to be constantly asking ourselves whether the limits and defects of our own communication skills in any given moment are making it more difficult for others to understand the Church's message, so that they reject it, or whether the message itself is being rejected even though it has been understood – or precisely because it has been understood.
We are called to be witnesses to God's love for humanity and for this world, but we cannot hide from the fact that the Gospel of Christ often becomes a sign of contradiction during the course of the vicissitudes of the world.
We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that a perfect communications strategy could ever make it possible for us to communicate every message the Church has to offer in a way that avoids contradiction and conflict. Truth be told, success in this sense would be a bad sign – at the very least, it would indicate ambiguity or compromise, rather than authentic communication.
I am convinced that in the present Pope and in his predecessor – and doubtless in others that came before them, as well, though I will speak of Benedict and John Paul II because I know them better – we have had and continue to have two eminent witnesses of the courage to speak the truth, to be oneself, and not to become enslaved to the desire for approval, which is one of the greatest idols of the modern world and of contemporary communications.
It is important to realise that many of the things the Church says – and that we should say if we would be faithful to Her – go against the grain. We need to hope that this is the case, not because we are outmoded or out of touch with the times in which we live, but because the Gospel of Christ is itself often against the grain.
To preach forgiveness in situations of hate and desperate conflict is against the grain. To preach a vision of human sexuality rooted in love and responsibility is against the grain.
To preach hope for a life beyond death to a world that is closed in on itself is against the grain, as is every concrete, everyday choice to live in faithfulness to Christ and His Church, a faithfulness founded on precisely that hope, which sees beyond death and yearns for eternal life.
Here we come to the very heart of communications in the Church, the heart of the Church's mission of communication to and for the world. The 'hard core' that is strong enough to resist the trials and travails of history, is the credibility of the Gospel message, the authoritative character of the message that comes from authentic witness to the faith in the lives of the faithful. I am convinced that much of the respect that John Paul II earned from the world and from professional communicators, was at the end of the day a consequence not so much of his charisma as it was of his personal credibility. He was long criticised as a conservative, a retrograde, the 'old Polish fellow' unwise to the ways of the modern world and modern ideas, but at the end he was respected as a man of courage and integrity, firmly rooted in his faith and able to bear personal witness to it through all the different trials he faced during his long life.
Pope Benedict XVI has a very different personality, but no one can doubt his integrity and his intellectual and spiritual coherence. From these come his courage unabashedly to take and to maintain positions that are unpopular for those who have embraced the dominant culture. Think of his recent letter to the bishops; it is a most personal and admirably courageous communication. He expresses himself in the first person, repeating and defending the priorities and the criteria of action that he has set out for his pontificate, and leaves no room for doubt that his choices, as a generous search for reconciliation, have their deepest inspiration from the Gospel.
A few weeks ago, a journalist asked me to share my thoughts on good and evil in communications. In particular, he asked me to identify the principal faces of evil in our work and in the flow of communications.
It is easy to paint the big picture. The hard part is recognising the real, concrete, individual cases and situations, and then to put people on their guard, especially those most susceptible to the blandishments or tricks of evil.
There is the classical face of falsehood, more or less explicit, and often mixed with half-truths, motivated by interests of different kinds. It always aims to deceive.
There is the face of pride, of self-referencing self-centeredness that despises his fellows and refuses to listen to other positions, but seeks always and only the absolute affirmation of the superiority of his own position.
There is the face of oppression and injustice, that would deny his fellows' freedom to gather information and give expression – the face of injustice that denies the voice of his fellows and so denies their basic human dignity and their rightful place in society.
There is the face of debauched sensuality that seeks to use and possess, and has respect neither for the body nor for the image of the other. This face expresses the materialistic hedonism that turns persons into brutes.
There is the face of escapism, which, seeking refuge in imaginary or virtual worlds, completely subverts the purpose of the new communications technologies, making them a source of isolation and slavery.
There is the face of division, that seeks to demolish dialogue, to undermine all efforts at mutual understanding among people of different creeds and cultures, and to set them against one another rather than to help them come together in genuine appreciation. This face becomes the face of conflict and war.
We need to learn to recognise these faces of evil for what they are, in order to make communications freely able to serve the good, that is, to further the construction of a culture of respect, of dialogue and friendship, and to place the immense potential of contemporary communications in the service of communion in the Church and of the unity of the whole human family.
Communication for communion: communicating with a view to unity.
This is the best expression I can find of my vocation as a communicator, of our vocation as communicators.
I have learned the need to discover ever anew the difficulties and the struggles of this vocation, and also the beauty and the greatness of it.
There is one precise moment that remains fixed in my memory, an unexpected illumination, in which, after many years, I understood the nature of the call to communicate.
There was a young people's prayer gathering in the Paul VI Audience Hall, in which an aged John Paul II was taking part. CTV had set up ten or so different two-way satellite links so that young people in other European cities could take part in the broadcast.
Watching the giant screen in the Hall, the Pope saw the various other gatherings; he heard the young people's greetings and greeted them in turn. We were all more than a little tense, owing to the complexity of the technical side of the operation – I remember because I was crammed in a tiny tech van with all my CTV colleagues and was sweating buckets.
At one point the Pope, with his characteristic spontaneity, said, 'What a marvellous thing is this television! I can see and speak with my young people in Krakow as though they were right here. Blessed be television!' I was stunned.
Think of all the terrible, awful things that television does, and now the Pope is calling it blessed! But he was right, of course. He sees further, for television really can create communion, it can allow the Pope and the whole Church, as it did that evening, to experience the joy of communion, and this is proof that television can be used for good, that it can truly be blessed! But this depends on us. We are the ones who must make television a source of blessing, and not leave it to become an instrument of corruption.
This, then, is my vocation – our vocation: we are called to make sure that the press, the radio and television are tools and paths toward blessedness. Now, I shall have to work more, all of us shall have to work even harder, so that every day it will be more and more true to say, and so that we might be able to say with greater and greater conviction: the internet is truly blessed!
BENEDICT XVI REGINA CÆLI - World Communications Day
Saint Peter's Square, 7th Sunday of Easter, 8 May 2005
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today in many countries, Italy among them, the Ascension of the Lord to Heaven is being celebrated. On this feast the Christian community is invited to turn its gaze to the One who, 40 days after his Resurrection, to the astonishment of the Apostles, "was lifted up before their eyes in a cloud which took him from their sight" (Acts 1: 9).
We are called, therefore, to renew our faith in Jesus, the only true hope of salvation for all humanity. Ascending to Heaven, he reopened the pathway to paradise, our final homeland. Now, with the power of his Spirit, he sustains us in our daily pilgrimage on earth.
World Communications Day is being celebrated this Sunday on the theme: "The communications media: at the service of understanding among peoples". In today's world of imagery, the mass media effectively become an extraordinary resource to promote solidarity and understanding within the human family. We have had incredible proof of this recently on the occasion of the death and solemn funeral rites of my beloved Predecessor, John Paul II. It all depends, however, on how these means are used.
These important tools of communication can support reciprocal knowledge and dialogue or, on the contrary, fuel prejudice and contempt between individuals and peoples; they can contribute to spreading peace or fomenting violence. This is why an appeal must always be made to personal responsibility; all must do their part to ensure objectivity, respect for human dignity and attention to the common good in all forms of communication. In this way they contribute to bringing down the walls of hostility that continue to divide humanity, and to strengthening the bonds of friendship and love which are signs of God's Kingdom in history.
Let us return to the Christian mystery of the Ascension. After the Lord ascended to Heaven, the disciples gathered in prayer in the Upper Room, with the Mother of Jesus (cf. Acts 1: 14), invoking together the Holy Spirit who would invest them with the power to witness to the Risen Christ (cf. Lk 24: 49; Acts 1: 8). United to the Most Blessed Virgin, every Christian community relives in these days this unique spiritual experience in preparation for the Solemnity of Pentecost. We too turn now to Mary with the hymn of the Regina Caeli, imploring her protection on the Church and especially on those who dedicate themselves to the work of evangelization through the means of social communication.
After the Regina Caeli, the Pope spoke to English-speaking pilgrims: I greet with affection all the English-speaking visitors present today, including groups from Denmark and the Netherlands. May the peace and joy of Christ our Risen Lord be with you.
AN APPEAL TO ALL CONTEMPLATIVE RELIGIOUS
EDWARD L. HESTON, C.S.C. - Tit. Archbishop of Numida – President
Andres M. Deskur- Secretary
Vatican City, Easter 1973
Each year on the Sunday before Pentecost, since 1967, the Church celebrates "World Communications Day". The theme selected and approved by the Holy Father for this year's celebration on June 3rd is: "The Communications Media and the Affirmation and Promotion of Spiritual Values".
Certainly everyone is aware that the Communications Media-Press, Radio, Television, Cinema, Recordings, and others so new that they have hardly gotten into general circulation-exercise a profound influence on our contemporary world. The Communications Media reach out beyond all geographical boundaries and, if used rightly, can help to bring about brotherhood and understanding among men. The Church recognizes the tremendous possibilities of the media for achieving justice and peace, good will, charity and love among men, and finally, unity (Communio et Progressio, 12). The media are therefore providential instruments to be used for man's personal development and in his relations with his fellow men, which is all in God's plan.
Pope Paul VI, in a speech to the Foreign Press Association in Italy on January 24, 1973, expressed his concern over many things regarding modern man-his rights, his family, culture, economic and social problems, the building of the international community. His Holiness said: "There is no human field that does not meet with our solicitude. In all these areas, Christians have a service to carry out with all other men, without losing sight of their ultimate goal which is Heaven".
Referring directly to those responsible for communications media, the Pope said that they must demonstrate responsibility and rectitude towards their fellow men, seeing to it that they are not degraded but rather uplifted and encouraged by the inspiration of the Media. The communications media, consequently, should reflect an incorruptible love for truth, humility and readiness to dialogue. The Pope said further that professionals working in the media have a responsibility to convey information about man on the human level, but that they must also impart authentic spiritual values.
It cannot be stressed too often that in themselves the communications media are only lifeless instruments requiring proper use. Powerful and effective as they are, they should nevertheless be used to serve basic spiritual values and not to spread error and confusion and, in the end, cause distrust in the public mind.
The daily press and other publications, as well as the audio-visual media, are filled with examples which deny or water down fundamental spiritual values. Unfortunately, the media are often controlled by individuals or groups unworthy of their grave responsibility, who are motivated solely by profit, power or ambition, and who, to achieve these ends, are quite ready to appeal to man's less noble instincts. This situation is particularly deplorable when it affects persons who are devoted to the Church and whose consciences are thus violated by these attacks on their basic beliefs.
The Church is well aware that the media are indispensable today for spreading the Word of God throughout the world in fulfilment of its evangelical mandate. The Church can and does appeal to the consciences of professionals in this field - particularly those in positions of authority - and asks them to share in the education of the public in order to evaluate the media according to basic spiritual values to discern in what they see and read, the true from the false.
But not all the problems of the media can be resolved merely through basic education. The problems are so far-reaching that they require the arousal of Christian consciences and of all men of good will to action to improve the contents of the media. This means expressing approval and congratulations for good programs and publications and disapproval or even strong protest about materials which offend basic Christian values.
It is not easy for the Church to take concrete action about the contents of the media in the external order. But through supernatural means - such as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, prayer, personal sacrifices, calling on God to enlighten men's minds, to discipline of the will so that the negative effects of the media can be ordered to the good in conformity with the plan of God- and only through such means can the People of God be alerted to the workings of grace which will enlighten and strengthen them.
World Communications Day is then a call to reflection and an appeal to the consciences of all men. But above all it is a call to prayer, the communication par excellence. It is an invitation to all men of good will, particularly those who have been called by God to a special role in the life of the Church, to pray for a right use of the media by those who serve them.
As Pope Paul stated in a general audience to the faithful assembled in the Vatican on February 14, man today "does not seek prayer, does not enjoy it, and apparently does not even miss it ". This opposition to prayer, His Holiness said, stems from "psychological laziness". It is the result of an over-abundance of material things, things which are all too often contaminated with sensuality and permissiveness and to which the communications media merely give witness.
The Pope expressed his grave concern for the problems of modern man and the witness given them by the Media. These problems must not be foreign to men and women religious. The Conciliar Document, Pertectae Caritatis, reminds us that those who, "faithful to their vocation to the integral contemplative life, abandon the world for Christ by fixing their minds on God with apostolic love and strive to be associated with the work of Redemption and to spread the Kingdom of God in their human relations", (Perfectae Caritatis, 5, 7) are to maintain the integrity of their particular vocation while praying and sacrificing for the world they have left in order to belong the more fully to God.
Surely those working in the apostolate of social communications must seek the help of contemplative religious who can serve this apostolate through dedication and work, sacrifice and prayer.
We appeal then, to all contemplatives who, while not making extensive use of the mass media, can serve this apostolate through their complete dedication to God. They have consecrated their entire lives to a silent affirmation and vigorous promotion of the spiritual values which are the center of their lives, and of which Christians today run the risk of being deprived, those values which the Holy Father sets before them as the very heart of their vocation in the People of God.
This Pontifical Commission, consequently, earnestly begs for the prayerful support of all contemplatives so that through their unique dedication and sacrifice, the communications media will express true Christian values. We cherish the hope that this dialogue will help to obtain from God the grace of communicating to all men a genuine understanding and use of communications in a climate of true spiritual values. We appeal then, for this unique support, while asking God to maintain all contemplatives in their fervor and to bless them always.
Vatican City, Easter 1973.
EDWARD L. HESTON, C.S.C.
| Andres M. Deskur