Published below is the address that Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, delivered at the 2012 Catholic Media Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana.
At this year’s awards celebration, Salt + Light received a Gabriel Award for Best Arts Documentary for Panes of Glory: The Windows of St. Peter’s Seminary.
Dear Friends in Christ,
It is a pleasure for me to be here with you again for the annual Catholic Media Convention of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada. It is also an honour to be present at this Awards Ceremony in which we are recognizing the wide range of talented media professionals working in Catholic media. I have had a chance to meet many of you already in my brief time here, and your experience and enthusiasm give me great hope for the future of Catholic media. It is really encouraging to witness your dedication and commitment, especially during these challenging times for Catholic media and the Church in general.
I would like to offer just a few considerations which I believe are important when we reflect on our own work as Catholic media professionals. These ideas will not be new to you, but it is always helpful to reconsider them anew, as a way to identify more deeply with our responsibility, mission and commitment as Catholic media practitioners.
The first area touches on the theme of our gathering, taken from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians, “We, though many, are one body”.
Our identity, and our inspiration for all that we do, is rooted in our faith in Jesus and our belonging to his Church. We are many persons of diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives, but we are members of one body in Christ. This goes to the core of who we are and our identity as Catholic communicators.
Everyone working in the media is called to the highest professional and ethical standards of excellence, such as, the search for truth, fairness in reporting, respect for human dignity and concern for the common good. At the same time, as believers in Christ and members of his Church, we are called to even more. We have to learn from Him what it means to love and how to express this love in our personal and professional lives. With our lives rooted in Jesus Christ, who loves us without limit and gave his life for all, we must also share and give witness to this faith which is expressed in our attitude, respect and care for others. We must be living witnesses of the Gospel with our faith permeating who we are and all that we do.
Striving for excellence, both in our faith and our work, is an ongoing, lifelong process of inner dialogue and conversion. Our faith requires nurturing and we must seek to deepen our personal relationship with Jesus. And, as a community of believers, united in the body of Christ, we need to support and sustain each other in our own families, parishes and communities. It is especially important in our very busy lives to foster moments of silence as a way to cultivate our faith and become more attentive to how Jesus is present in each of our lives. Speaking on World Communications Day last May 20th, the Holy Father said: “Silence and listening is an integral part of communication, it is the privileged place for encountering the Word of God and our brothers and sisters. I invite everyone to pray that communication, in every form, may always serve to establish authentic dialogue with others, founded on mutual respect, listening and sharing.” (Regina Cæli, 20 May 2012)
In the same way, our professional activities require continuous updating and improvement. Working in the field of media today is perhaps, like no other time in the past, one of the most demanding tasks. The convergence of media technologies and the new culture and emerging forms of communication require an extraordinary ability to adapt quickly. Otherwise, we run the risk of becoming outdated or irrelevant. Perhaps even more important than the new technologies are the new ways people relate to one another through social media, for example. We have to continually ask ourselves how our own Catholic media outreach can be part of this reality.
The Holy Father has spoken numerous times on the many aspects of communication and the Church’s commitment in this field. In a sense, communication is what we are all about. In 2008, he addressed participants at a conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications on the identity and mission of the communication departments in Catholic Universities.
“The diverse forms of communication – dialogue, prayer, teaching, witness, proclamation – and their different instruments – the press, electronics, the visual arts, music, voice, gestural art and contact – are all manifestations of the fundamental nature of the human person. It is communication that reveals the person, that creates authentic and community relationships, and which permits human beings to mature in knowledge, wisdom and love.
In the light of the biblical message, (communication) reflects our participation in the creative, communicative and unifying Trinitarian Love which is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. God has created us to be united to him and he has given us the gift and the duty of communication, because he wants us to obtain this union, not alone, but through our knowledge, our love and our service to him and to our brothers and sisters in a communicative and loving relationship.”
He notes that we must have a conviction that only in the Word made flesh does the mystery of the human person become clear. The consequence is that the Catholic identity lies … in the decision to entrust oneself, intellect and will, mind and heart, to God.
While I have spoken briefly about aspects of our Catholic identity as communicators, I would also like to consider what this means when we speak of the Catholic press in general and the challenges facing us. I would like to highlight very briefly a few areas touching on our outreach both inside and outside the Church, including:
- the call of allmedia – religious and secular – for work based on professionalism and ethics;
- the need to support and strengthen understanding and fellowship among all peoples;
- the duty to preach the Gospel message through our lives and our work;
- the responsibility to sustain and encourage communion among all Church members.
First, the Catholic press has to live up to the same professional and ethical standards as the press in general, the search for truth, fairness in reporting, respect for human dignity, and so forth, as I’ve mentioned before. It also has to face the same challenges as the secular media in producing content which attracts, interests, informs and inspires people. The Pastoral Instruction Communio et Progressio notes: “That part of the Catholic press which is of general interest publishes news and opinions and background articles about all the facets and problems and worries of modern life. This it does in the light of Christian principles. It is the task of the Catholic press to balance, to complete and, if necessary, to correct the news and comments about religion and the Christian life. At one and the same time it will be a glass that reflects the world and a light to show it the way. It will be a forum, a meeting place for the exchange of views.”
Second, the Catholic press also has a vocation to build up communion, both internally within the Church, and externally with the wider world.
The theme of our meeting is a reminder of who we are as Church, “We, though many, are one body”. And being true to the Catholic faith handed down to us from the Apostles, the Catholic Press must be at the same time catholic (with a small ‘c’), that is, universal in being open to dialogue with the rest of the world in our desire to share the Gospel. We need to cultivate our ability to listen to others, to better understand their experience, and to see how we can also learn from them and be enriched. Speaking to representatives of the world of culture in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2010, the Holy Father said:
“The Church, in her adherence to the eternal character of truth, is in the process of learning how to live with respect for other “truths” and for the truth of others. Through this respect, open to dialogue, new doors can be opened to the transmission of truth. The Church – wrote Pope Paul VI – must enter into dialogue with the world in which she lives. The Church becomes word, she becomes message, she becomes dialogue” (Ecclesiam Suam, 67). Dialogue, without ambiguity and marked by respect for those taking part, is a priority in today’s world, and the Church does not intend to withdraw from it. … Building a global citizenship based on human rights and civic responsibility, independent of ethnic origin or political allegiance, and respectful of religious beliefs. Given the reality of cultural diversity, people need not only to accept the existence of the culture of others, but also to aspire to be enriched by it and to offer to it whatever they possess that is good, true and beautiful.”
Third, the vocation of the Catholic press is to be missionary, also in the literal sense of the word.
It aims to spread the good news of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. The methods, media and strategies employed vary greatly and depend on the local culture, the audience being reached and their disposition. This outreach of evangelization concerns both Church members and non-members. We need to reach out to all people, wherever they are in their journey, by supporting, educating and inspiring them through who we are and what we produce. The pastoral instruction “Communio et Progressio” notes: “The modern media offer new ways of confronting people with the message of the Gospel, of allowing Christians even when they are far away to share in sacred rites, worship and ecclesiastical functions. In this way they can bind the Christian community closer together and invite everyone to participate in the intimate life of the Church.”
Fourth and finally, it is increasingly important for the Catholic press to work for greater harmony, unity and communion within the Church.
The problems of division, polarization and lack of charity, have a negative effect on the Church’s internal life. These problems are not unique to the Church, and reflect a phenomenon increasingly common across society today. Part of the reason for this state of affairs is that new technologies and the culture of communication arising from them make it easier to isolate oneself and to congregate only with people who “think like I do”. Communio et Progressio says: “The Church looks for ways of multiplying and strengthening the bonds of union between her members. For this reason, communication and dialogue among Catholics are indispensable.”
In conclusion, I offer these words of Pope Benedict in his message this year for World Communications Day: “Word and silence: learning to communicate is learning to listen and contemplate as well as speak. This is especially important for those engaged in the task of evangelization: both silence and word are essential elements, integral to the Church’s work of communication for the sake of a renewed proclamation of Christ in today’s world. To Mary, whose silence ‘listens to the Word and causes it to blossom’, I entrust all the work of evangelization which the Church undertakes through the means of social communication.” (2012 World Communications Day Message, “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization”)
Thank you all very much.