In his Message for today's World Communications Day, Pope Benedict XVI hopes that the media don't end up becoming, paradoxically, a means of a lack of communication!
The Pope expressed that idea in this year's message on the theme: "The Media: A Network for Communication, Communion and Cooperation." Benedict XVI writes: "Daily we are reminded that immediacy of communication does not necessarily translate into the building of co-operation and communion in society."
The Pope points out that, "Certain tendencies within the media engender a kind of monoculture that dims creative genius, deflates the subtlety of complex thought and undervalues the specificity of cultural practices and the particularity of religious belief. These are distortions that occur when the media industry becomes self-serving or solely profit-driven, losing the sense of accountability to the common good.
"Do not our hearts cry out, most especially, when our young people are subjected to debased or false expressions of love which ridicule the God-given dignity of every human person and undermine family interests?" asks the Pontiff. In this connection, the papal message becomes an examination of conscience on the way the media address marital and family life, which is "of particular importance, precisely because it pertains to the foundation of every culture and society."
In order to promote a constructive presence and positive perception of the media in society, Benedict XVI presents three proposals: "formation, participation and dialogue." Recalling Pope John Paul II's last apostolic letter, "The Rapid Development," that appeared only weeks before his final illness and death last year, Benedict XVI states: "Formation in the responsible and critical use of the media helps people to use them intelligently and appropriately."
Benedict concludes this year's message: "The promotion of dialogue through the exchange of learning, the expression of solidarity and the espousal of peace presents a great opportunity for the mass media which must be recognized and exercised. In this way they become influential and appreciated resources for building the civilization of love for which all peoples yearn."
Communication both within the Church community, and between the Church and the world at large, requires openness and a new approach towards facing questions regarding the world of media. This communication must tend towards a constructive dialogue.
It serves no purpose for Church officials and leaders to vilify those involved in the media. Nor does it serve any purpose for those in the media world to ignore or marginalize the Church and religious issues into banal, trivial matters that don't merit serious reflection. We have much to learn from each other, and we have much good work to do together to serve the cause of truth and decency in a world that is becoming more devoid of value, virtue and meaning.
Throughout his Pontificate, John Paul II taught us that communication is power. He told us to use that power wisely. He communicated through spontaneous, symbolic actions that were often more eloquent than some of his speeches, homilies and encyclicals -- especially his final moments on the world stage. Those actions were often powerful symbols.
The word "symbol" comes from the Greek word "symbolein" -- "to bring together:" It's the opposite of the Greek word "diabolein," -- "to break apart, to divide," the origin of our word "diabolical." Symbolic actions help to bring people together in peace and in love. Up to the moment of his death -- and even after, Pope John Paul II brought people together in peace and in love. That was communication at the service of truth. Benedict is certainly following in the footsteps of a great leader who knew the power of communication and symbols.