Vatican Promotes Media's Bridge-Building Role

Council for Communication Publishes Commentary

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 6, 2005 ( Armed conflicts often have their origin in distorted information regarding peoples and their cultures, wrote John Paul II in a message for World Day of Social Communications.

The day, the only one observed at the request of Vatican Council II, will be celebrated Sunday, and has as its theme: «The Communications Media: at the Service of Understanding between Peoples.»

To better understand the message written by John Paul II for the occasion, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications published a commentary on the responsibility of communicators as agents of peace.

In the document, John Paul II emphasizes the «enormous potential» of the media «for promoting peace and building bridges between peoples,» its capacity to «teach billions of people about other parts of the world and other cultures,» and stresses that «accurate knowledge promotes understanding, dispels prejudice, and awakens the desire to learn more.»

It is a message that, according to the Vatican dicastery, headed by Archbishop John Foley, encourages the media «to serve the common good,» which in this case is «concretely realized by favoring understanding between peoples.»

«The Holy Father reminds us that not only our actions, but also our words and other forms of communication have consequences. Each person must pay attention to the choices in words used and to the ways to which other people are referred as they can foster greater unity or create divisions and conflict,» said the commentary.

«Those who have the privilege of working in the communications media reaching wide audiences have a special responsibility in this area,» it stated.

The commentary continued: «Many conflicts have their roots in prejudices and misunderstandings which one people has of another, either close or faraway. This view of society is created and sustained in large part on the basis of information received from the media.

«The messages communicated can bring forth a spirit of solidarity and understanding with other people, or one of rejection and antagonism.»

John Paul II wrote: «When others are portrayed in hostile terms, seeds of conflict are sown which can all too easily escalate into violence, war, or even genocide.»

For this reason, the dicastery added, «the message compels us to confront what could lead to an irresponsible use of the instruments of the communications media, so powerful in influencing the human spirit.»

The Pope also praises the media in his message, acknowledging that «the media can achieve an immense amount of good,» highlighting «the efficacy of the mass media» at the end of 2004, «when a great mobilization of solidarity came about in favor of the peoples of Asia,» victims of the tsunami.

«This dynamism in communication showed the coming together of timely information with a personal and social commitment and generous response,» stated the dicastery.

The Pope «at all times called on all people of goodwill to give the best of themselves, to be promoters of peace in a world marked by conflict. This call is more urgent when directed to men and women working in the media,» said the dicastery.

John Paul II reminded communicators that the greatest example of communication is Jesus Christ: «The Incarnate Word has established a new covenant between God and his people — a covenant which also joins us in community with one another. ‘For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh’ (Ephesians 2:14).»

«Breaking down dividing walls and building bridges are two great challenges of communication which face all of us, both as individuals and professional communicators. It is necessary to work so that nobody is influenced by prejudices or is a source of them, and to ensure that communication is transformed into an instrument ‘to strengthen the bonds of friendship and love that clearly signal the onset of the Kingdom of God here on earth,'» stated the commentary, quoting John Paul II.

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