"The Masterful Way of Truth": B16 Meets the Press
After four days of the most-prominent Roman forum to date on the "challenges" of communicating the church in an instantaneous age, however, keeping with the time-honored tradition of Catholic officialdom, the Holy See's handling of the encounter served to illustrate afresh the degree to which the church's message-hurdle tends to be self-inflicted; the PopeTalk given in Italian -- by no means the lingua franca of modern media -- no full translations of B16's remarks were prepared in advance for immediate circulation, leaving many of the delegates looped out as to what he said, to say nothing of the non-Italophone world outside.
If the usual form holds, said product likely won't surface for the better part of a week... by which time the news cycle and its curiosity will have moved on. (It doesn't wait, even for the Pope.)
Gratefully, though, yet again Zenit -- whose editorial chief, Jesús Colina, spoke at the PCCS meeting -- did the Vatican's work, preparing a full English rendering of B16's address... and here it is:
Esteemed Cardinals,Likewise on the Z-wire: an Appointment Day interview with the new prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Italian Archbishop Mauro Piacenza.
Distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies,
I receive you with joy at the end of the four days of intense work promoted by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and dedicated to the Catholic press. I cordially greet all of you -- coming from 85 countries -- who work in newspapers, weeklies or in other periodicals and Internet sites. I greet the president of the dicastery, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, whom I thank for giving voice to the sentiments of all, as well as the secretaries, the under-secretary and all the officials and staff. I am happy to be able to address a word of encouragement to you to continue, with renewed motivations, your important and qualified work.
The world of the media is going through a profound transformation also within itself. The development of the new technologies and, in particular, widespread multimedia, seems to call into question the role of the more traditional and consolidated media. Appropriately, your conference pauses to consider the specific role of the Catholic press. A careful reflection on this field, in fact, brings up two particular aspects: on one hand the specificity of the means -- the press, that is, the written word and its timeliness and efficacy, in a society which has seen antennas, satellite dishes and satellites multiply, becoming almost the emblem of a new way of communicating in the era of globalization. And the other point, the connotation "Catholic," with the responsibility that derives from it to be faithful in an explicit and substantial way, through the daily commitment to follow the masterful way of truth.
The search for truth must be pursued by Catholic journalists with a passionate mind and heart, but also with the professionalism of competent staff who are equipped with adequate and effective means. This is even more important in the present historical moment, which asks of the figure itself of the journalist, as mediator of the flow of information, to undertake a profound change. Today, for example, the world of the image with the development of ever new technologies has ever greater weight in communication. But if on one hand this entails undoubtedly positive aspects, on the other hand, the image can also become independent of reality; it can give life to a virtual world, with several consequences, the first of which is the risk of indifference to truth.
In fact, the new technologies, together with the progress they entail, can make the true and the false interchangeable; they can induce one to confuse the real with the virtual. Moreover, the recording of an event, joyful or sad, can be consumed as a spectacle and not as an occasion for reflection. The search for the paths of an authentic promotion of man then takes second place, because the event is presented primarily to arouse emotions. These aspects sound like an alarm bell: They invite consideration of the danger that the virtual draws away from reality and does not stimulate the search for the true, for the truth.
In this context, the Catholic press is called, in a new way, to express to the heights its potential and to give a reason day in and day out for its mission that can never be given up. The Church has a facilitating element, since the Christian faith has in common with communication a fundamental structure: the fact that the means and the message coincide; indeed, the Son of God, the Incarnate Word, is at the same time message of salvation and means through which salvation is realized. And this is not a simple concept, but a reality accessible to all, also those who while living as protagonists in the complexity of the world, are capable of preserving the intellectual honesty proper to the "little ones" of the Gospel. Moreover the Church, Mystical Body of Christ, present at the same time everywhere, nourishes the capacity of more fraternal and more human relations, being a place of communion among believers and, at the same time, a sign and instrument of everyone's vocation to communion. Her strength is Christ, and in his name she "pursues" man on the roads of the world to save him from the "mysterium iniquitatis" ["mystery of evil"] insidiously operating in him. The Catholic press evokes more directly, as compared to other means of communication, the value of the written word. The Word of God has come to men and has been given to us also through a book, the Bible. The word continues to be the fundamental instrument and, in a certain sense, the constitutive instrument of communication: It is used today under various forms, and in the so-called civilization of the image it also keeps its entire value.
From these brief considerations, it seems evident that the communicative challenge is, for the Church and for all those who share her mission, very involved. Christians cannot ignore the crisis of faith that has come to society, or simply trust that the patrimony of the values transmitted in the course of past centuries can continue inspiring and shaping the future of the human family. The idea of living "as if God didn't exist" has shown itself to be deadly: The world needs, rather, to live "as if God existed," even if it does not have the strength to believe; otherwise it will only produce an "inhuman humanism."
My very dear brothers and sisters, whoever works in the media, if he does not wish to be "a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal" (1 Corinthians 13:1) -- as Saint Paul would say -- must have well-rooted in himself the underlying option that enables him to deal with the things of the world placing God always at the top of the scale of values. The times we are living through -- despite having a notable positive weight, because the threads of history are in God's hands and his eternal design is ever more revealed -- are also marked by many shadows. Your task, dear members of the Catholic press, is to help contemporary man to orient himself to Christ, only Savior, and to keep burning the flame of hope in the world, to live worthily our today and to build the future appropriately.
Because of this I exhort you to constantly renew your personal choice for Christ, drinking from those spiritual resources that the worldly mentality underestimates, despite the fact they are valuable, more than that, indispensable. Dear friends, I encourage you to continue in your endeavor that is not easy, and I accompany you with my prayer, so that the Holy Spirit will always make it fruitful. My blessing, full of affection and gratitude, which I am pleased to impart, intends to embrace all of you here present and all those who work in the Catholic press worldwide.
PHOTO: Pontifical Council for Social Communications