Social Communications Council to Reflects on Its 40 Years

Focus of Annual Plenary Assembly

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 5, 2004 ( The Pontifical Council for Social Communications, which this year marks its 40th anniversary, will hold its annual plenary assembly March 8-12 on the theme “‘Inter Mirifica’: Forty Years Later.”

Cardinal Eugênio de Araújo Sales, archbishop emeritus of Rio de Janeiro, an original member of the council, will preside at the opening Mass on Monday in the chapel of the Teutonic College, the Vatican Information Service said.

According to the council president, Archbishop John Foley, “each member and each consultor of the pontifical council has been asked to make a presentation of the most significant event or events in communications in the last 40 years and to express a ‘dream’ for the next decade in communications.”

These reflections may be used as a source document to mark the 40th anniversary of “‘Inter Mirifica’ and this council,” the archbishop said. “There will also be discussion of a proposed document on ‘Spirituality and Cinema.'”

“Inter Mirifica” was the Second Vatican Council’s 1963 decree on the media of social communications.

The current Pontifical Council for Social Communications has had a number of precursors over the decades.

The first such office set up within the Vatican was the Pontifical Commission for the Study and Ecclesiastical Evaluation of Films on Religious and Moral Subjects. It was established in January 1948.

Several months later this office, which was staffed by a president and four members and housed in a single room, was renamed the Pontifical Commission for Educational and Religious Films. Its task was to examine educational and pastoral problems of the nascent audiovisual era.

The commission was replaced by the Pontifical Commission for Cinema and its statutes approved by Pope Pius XII in January 1952. Its staff was increased and office space enlarged.

A further name change took place in 1954 when it became the Pontifical Commission for the Cinema, Radio and Television, following which it took a more active role in preparing, implementing and participating in international Catholic congresses.

On Feb. 22, 1959, Pope John XXIII, in his letter “Boni Pastoris” linked this office to the Secretariat of State. In June 1960 the Preparatory Secretariat for the Press and the Entertainment World was set up within the pontifical commission as one of the 12 preparatory organs for Vatican II. “Inter Mirifica” was the result of the work and studies of this office.

Pope Paul VI, in his April 2, 1964, letter “In Fructibus Multis” transformed the commission into the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications, entrusting it with the responsibility of delving into and studying problems in the worlds of the cinema, radio and television. Paul VI personally attended the first plenary of this new commission on Sept. 28, 1964.

With the apostolic constitution “Pastor Bonus,” promulgated by John Paul II on June 28, 1988, this commission was renamed and on March 1, 1989, it officially became the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Archbishop Foley was appointed president on April 9, 1984.

Pontifical documents related to the media include “The Church and Internet” (2002); “Ethics in Internet” (2002); “Ethics in Communications” (2000); “Ethics in Advertising” (1997); “100 Years of Cinema” (1995-’96); “Aetatis Novae” (1992); “Criteria for Ecumenical and Interreligious Cooperation in Communications” (1989); “Pornography and Violence in the Communications Media: A Pastoral Response” (1989); “Guide to the Training of Future Priests Concerning the Instruments of Social Communications” (1986); “An Appeal to All Contemplative Religious” (1973); and “Communio et Progressio” (1971).

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