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Communicating the Gospel

Celebrating Forty Years of World Communications Day 1976-2006

Author(s): Brenda Drumm

ISBN13: 9781853909245

ISBN10: 1853909246

Publisher: Veritas

Extent: 384 pages

Binding: Paperback

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  • This book,Compiled by Brenda Drumm, brings together the Papal World Communications Day messages of Popes Paul IV, John Paul II and Benedict XVI over the past 40 years and some of the key church documents on social communications issued duing that period. It reminds us of the amazing changes and developements that have taken place in social communications over the years and the challenge they present to the Church in its responsability to present Christs face and voice in a new millenium of global communications. It is a very timely resource book.
  • Brenda Drumm

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  • Chapter One: Message of the Holy Father Paul VI for the 1st World Communications Day
    Sunday 7 May 1967
    Church and Social Communication

    We address you, dear brothers and sons, as World Communications Day, which will be held for the first time on Sunday, seventh of May, approaches.

    The Church, realising that she is truly and intimately linked with mankind and its history, (1) wishes by means of this initiative, proposed by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, to draw the attention of her children and of all men of good will to the vast and complex phenomenon of the modern means of social communication, such as the press, motion pictures, radio and television, which form one of the most characteristic notes of modern civilization.

    Thanks to these wonderful techniques, mans social life has taken on new dimensions: time and space have been conquered, and man has become as it were a citizen of the world, sharing in and witnessing the most remote events and the vicissitudes of the whole human race. As the Council has said, we can already speak of a true social and cultural transformation, one which has repercussions on mans religious life as well. (2) To this transformation the means of social communication have greatly contributed, at times in a decisive manner, we are even now nearing new, amazing developments, such as that of world-wide television through artificial satellites. In all this we see the unfolding and the realisation of a wonderful plan of Gods providence, which opens to mans genius ever new ways of achieving his perfection and of attaining to his final end.

    One must, therefore, give full credit, at its true worth, to the contribution made by the press, motions pictures, radio and television as well as the other instruments of social communication, to the enrichment of culture, to the spread of various artistic forms, to recreation, to mutual knowledge and understanding among peoples and also towards the spread of the Gospel message.

    However, while the magnitude of this phenomenon, which now embraces both individuals and the whole community of man, is reason for admiration and satisfaction, it also gives cause for reflection and .concern. These instruments, as it happens, destined as they are by their very nature to spread thought, human expression, the image, information and publicity, not only act on public opinion and, consequently, on the modes of thought and action of individuals and social groups, but also bring pressure to bear upon minds, leaving their deep mark upon the mentality and the conscience of man who is being pressed and almost overpowered by a multiplicity of contradictory appeals.

    One cannot ignore the danger and the damage which these means, however noble in themselves, can inflict upon individuals and society when they are not employed by man with a sense of responsibility, with an honest intent and in conformity with the objective moral order.

    The greater, in fact, the power and the ambivalent efficacy of these means, the greater must be the care and the responsibility with which they are to be employed.

    It is therefore with sentiments of esteem and friendship and the certainty that we are interpreting the expectations and anxieties of honest men everywhere, that we address all who are devoting their ability and their work to this sensitive and important sector of modern life. We entertain the hope that the noble service, which they are called upon to render to their brothers, may always measure up to the nobility of the mission which makes them intermediaries and, as it were, masters and guides, between the truth and the public, the reality of the exterior world and the inner reaches of conscience.

    Just as they have the right not to be conditioned by undue ideological, political and economic pressures, which limit their just and responsible freedom of expression, so their speaking to the public demands a respect for the dignity of man and of society. Let every effort of theirs be directed towards spreading truth in mens minds, loyalty to what is good in their hearts and consistency in their actions. Thus they will contribute towards the uplift of humanity and will play a constructive part in the building of a new society that will be freer, more alert, more responsible, more brotherly and more noble. (3)

    We have particularly in mind the younger generations. Not without difficulties and at times apparent or real lapses, these are seeking to give direction to their present and future lives. They must be able to make their choices in freedom of spirit and with a sense of responsibility. Hindering or leading astray with false perspectives their strenuous efforts would mean deceiving their just expectations, confusing their noble aspirations and killing their generous impulses.

    With a fatherly heart we renew our pressing plea to the worthy members of the professional world of social communications, particularly to those among them who glory in the name of Christians, asking them to bear witness in the cause of the "World", that in all its temporal expressions must be a faithful echo of the eternal, uncreated Word, the Word of the Father, the Light of intellects, the Truth that so ennobles US. (4)

    It is necessary, however, that the efforts of the workers in the field of social communications be seconded by the united cooperation of all, for it is the responsibility of all that is put to the test: that of parents who are the first, irreplaceable educators of their children; that of teachers whose task it is to instruct their pupils in the knowledge and understanding of the language of modern techniques, showing them how to appreciate what is put forward, how to use these means sensibly with moderation and self-discipline. The responsibility of young people is brought into play, for they are called upon in a high degree to exploit these instruments in their own personal education as well as in the promotion of brotherhood and peace among men. The public authorities too exercise their responsibility in the furtherance and the defence of the common good with due respect for true liberty. Finally, this is the concern of all readers, spectators and hearers as they are called upon to choose carefully and wisely their daily newspapers and their periodicals, their motion pictures and their broadcasts; they are to help render communication nobler and higher, more worthy, that is, of responsible and mature human beings.

    Most helpful and laudable is, therefore, every serious initiative that aims at forming the critical judgement of the reader and spectator, and at inducing him to evaluate the news, the ideas and the images that are presented to him, not only under the aesthetical and technical aspects, but also from the human, moral and religious point of view, bearing in mind the highest values of life.

    The Church too wishes to make her own contribution to the orderly development of the world of social communications: a contribution of inspiration, encouragement, exhortation, guidance and cooperation.

    Precisely for this reason the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council has made this a subject of study: the Conciliar Decree on the Instruments of Social Communication and the corresponding Pastoral Instruction, which is now being prepared, bear witness to the Churchs motherly interest in the furtherance of human values which Christianity, as it embraces them wholeheartedly, renders more vital and nobler, Christianity directs them towards the supreme end of man, bringing it about that real, fruitful moral and spiritual progress go hand in hand with remarkable technical advance.

    We therefore express the hope that this day may prove an occasion for a considered appeal aimed at an awakening of consciences and a united endeavour on the part of all in such an important cause. We exhort our sons and daughters to undertake generous action, in prayerful unity of intent with their pastors and with all who are willing to give their welcome cooperation, in order that, with Gods help and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, they might attain those results that the celebration of World Communications Day aims at achieving for the good of mankind.

    These are the dearest hopes that we wish to manifest on the eve of the first World Communications Day, while we pray from our heart for abundant divine blessings on all who are listening to us, and on all who employ in this field their technical skill, their intellectual inspirations and their spiritual yearnings.

    From the Vatican, 7 May 1967

    1. Constitutio Pastoralis de Ecclesia in mindo huius temporis prooemium.
    2. Ibid, Expositio introductiva.
    3. cfr. Pius XII, Discourse to the European Union Radiodiffusion;Discorsi e Radiomessaggi, vol. 17, p. 327.
    4. cfr. Discourse to the National Council of the Italian Federation of the press; Oss. Rom. 24 June 1966.

    Message of the Holy Father Paul VI for the 2nd World Communications Day
    Sunday 26 May 1968
    Social Communications and the Development of Nations

    We would like to invite you all, our beloved sons and brothers, as well as all men of good will, to celebrate with us the day specially dedicated to the means of social communication. We wish to help you to consider the significance of the changes that are taking place in this field under our very eyes and to ponder the serious responsibilities that these imply for one and all.

    Until recently, many did not have anything more to stimulate their reflection than vague memories of what they learned at school or in the family and what they heard in their environment. Now however, with the echos of the press, motion pictures, radio and television clamouring for attention, new horizons open wide before them and they are attuned to the throbbing life of the universe. Who will not rejoice at this progress? Do we not all see in it a road destined by providence for the advance of the whole of mankind? There is room for all hopes if man learns to master these techniques; but everything can be lost if he shirks his responsibilities.

    Will the press, motion pictures, radio and television in actual fact help the development of nations? That is the question we earnestly put to you all, our Catholic sons and daughters and, no less, every human being. To begin with, what kind of progress do we have in mind? Is it economic progress? Yes, surely. Do we mean social progress? That too, undoubtedly. We have said as much in our encyclical letter Populorum progressio; but, as we also stress untiringly, progress, in order that it might be authentic, must be all-embracing, advancing all men and the whole of man (no. 14). He will not truly feel at home with this fresh vision of the universe provided by the means of social communication, nor profit by it, unless it helps him to appreciate in their true light - without pride or awkwardness - the values as well as the shortcomings of his own way of life. This vision must also help him to discover - without complacency or bitterness the worth of other civilizations. It will help him to take his destiny personally in hand and to achieve it in fraternal cooperation with his brethren. Lastly, it will help him to understand that there is no true humanism that is not open to the Absolute (Ibid., no. 42).

    Does the flood of words, of articles and of images that is poured out each day over the world favour this awareness and this broad outlook? This is a problem that we would like to put before all communicators through the press, the radio, the cinema and television, who desire to work generously in the service of their fellow men.

    It is dangerous to foster in a people a spirit of self-sufficiency and narrow nationalism. On the other hand, no less is it important to aid a country to discover with legitimate pride the material, intellectual and spiritual talents with which it has been endowed by the Creator that it might bring these to full fruition for the good of the entire community of nations.

    It is a mistake to foster constant dissensions and a spirit of corrosive and destructive criticism, or to nourish the illusion that violent revolution would be the universal cure for all ills and injustices. Equally is it important to enlighten responsible people about intolerable situations, to denounce crying abuses and to persuade opinion in favour of bold changes, radical renewals and urgent reforms that are to be undertaken without delay.

    In a world where so many people lack what is necessary bread, knowledge and spiritual light - it would be a serious fault to use the means of social communication to encourage personal and collective selfishness, to create new and unreal needs among consumers who are already fully satisfied and tickle the taste for pleasures by multiplying empty and enervating amusements. Once this temptation is overcome, a great enterprise lies before them: they can do so much to voice the appeals of a humanity in distress, to put in bold relief the efforts at cooperation, the initiatives and strivings for peace, so as to awaken a healthy and helpful rivalry. Who does not see in this dramatic challenge that faces our world the importance of the means of social communication in encouraging true development which is the transition for one and all, from inhuman conditions to more human (Ibid., no. 20)?

    Christians will not forget on their part that this brotherhood that unites them to the rest of mankind has its roots in a shared divine sonship. The beginning and end of all supreme values, the living God, is also their guarantee. We ask all, our Catholic sons in particular, to leave no stone unturned in order that the means of social communication, in the midst of a world that seeks, as it were in darkness, the light that can save it, might proclaim from the roof-tops (Matt 10:27) the message of Christ, the Saviour, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life On 14:6).

    In this way they will make their indispensable contribution to this progress of peoples that we, together with all men of good will, wish with all our heart and for which we intend to strive with all our forces. The future is there, in the insistent cry of peoples for greater justice, in their striving for peace, in their thirst, conscious or but vaguely perceived, for a nobler life, precisely that life which Christs Church is able and willing to give (Introduction to the Councils Message to the World, December 1965).

    It is this future that we invite you to build generously. It is with these sentiments that we impart to you our heartfelt blessing.

    From the Vatican, 26 March 1968

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Communicating the Gospel