Use of Media Urged in Evangelization

Many Diocesan Press Services Poorly Organized, Says Priest

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 28, 2005 ( Using the media to spread the Gospel message isn’t an option for believers, a missionary told a Vatican-organized symposium.

“To evangelize through the media is not something merely optional but an imperative,” said Father Gerardo Pastor, when addressing a congress on “The Church and the Media: An Unlimited Future.”

The former rector of the Pontifical University of Salamanca highlighted the differences that exist between a widely held theory and reality, when responding to the question “Is it possible to evangelize through the media?”

The congress, an initiative of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, brought together communicators, bishops, priests, religious and laity last Thursday and Friday.

Claretian Missionary Father Pastor described John Paul II as “an excellent communicator, who has not limited himself to appear on television, radio and newspapers but has succeeded in conditioning the very agenda setting of those very media.”

“On the theoretical plane, the Church admits and proclaims the enormous importance of the modern media to evangelize; however, on the plane of action, things are not so forceful,” he lamented.

“The press services of many dioceses are poorly organized, if they exist at all, compared to those of important enterprises,” the priest continued.

“Official diocesan spokesmen and those of bishops’ conferences do not always have journalistic preparation and communicative reflexes to give agile, transparent, clear and appropriate answers at the opportune moment,” he added.

The professor and missionary suggested that one regards the evangelizing act as “persuasive communication,” understanding by this not seduction or indoctrination, but the ability to “convince with arguments.”

The language of the media is “formally different from that used in sacred or homiletic oratory,” he warned.

Such language calls for “much synthesis, slogans and thought-provoking phrases.” It is a way of speaking without theoretical distinctions, “more intuitive than analytical, more narrative than discursive, less ordinary and repetitive than the academic,” Father Pastor explained.

“In a world which has already assimilated the new media culture, the Church must not be lethargic, acting at the wrong time or with doctrinal arrogance, as if it was speaking only to its own faithful,” he said.

Father Pastor, who has a doctorate in educational and psychological sciences from the Pontifical Salesian University, lamented that “the best communications professionals usually lack theological formation, while the best ecclesiastical speakers and writers usually lack sensibility and experience in media communication.”

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