A Media Challenge for the World Meeting of Families

Interview With Director of Communications Office

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VALENCIA, Spain, OCT. 26, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The World Meeting of Families will face the challenge of integrating the Pope’s message in the mass media, avoiding both simplifications and distortions.

This challenge includes not only the media reporting on the event, but also meeting’s own Communications Department, says its director, Javier Arnal, in this interview with ZENIT.

Arnal, 48, was appointed less than a month ago by the patrons of the 5th World Meeting of Families Foundation, including regional and local authorities, as well as the archbishop of Valencia. Arnal is also a delegate of Valencia Radio and Television and a professor at the University of Castellon.

Convoked by the Pope, the WMF is expected to gather more than a million people in Valencia next July 1-9.

Q: How are you organizing the task of communication for this event?

Arnal: We regard communication, especially in the present media culture, as the right path to achieve this meeting’s goal. It is an endeavor of worldwide mobilization in support of the family, enlightened by the doctrine of the Church.

Benedict XVI’s presence, of course, will be the highlight of this mobilization, but the months preceding the event are necessary to prepare, join, strengthen and spread a lot of Christian initiatives for the family. Contact with us will enrich them as well as everyone else.

We conceive of communication as an interactive task, appropriate to our society. We not only send information, but also receive it. It is an uninterrupted reciprocal flow that benefits families.

Just as St. Paul went to the Areopagus of Athens, because public opinion and the consequent decisions were generated there, the Church is well aware now that the primary Areopagus is the mass media.

Q: What is the main challenge facing the WMF?

Arnal: I think the greatest challenge is to have the media integrate the Pope’s teaching on the family, avoiding both simplifications and prejudices, but adapting it to the specific characteristics of their public.

Pluralism of cultures, languages and races shouldn’t be an obstacle. In short, it means integrating message and media.

Q: The meeting and concluding Mass of the 5th WMF, which might be presided over by Benedict XVI, will be preceded by days of Eucharistic celebrations for language groups, a theological and pastoral congress, a congress for children, and some other religious and cultural events including a festival. Is it difficult to communicate so many aspects of a world event?

Arnal: It certainly entails a variety of things, but we don’t consider variety a difficulty, but rather an opportunity to accept them all as different ways for the fruits of this meeting to reach people worldwide.

For all humanity, not just Catholics or Christians, Christian families are a treasure that have brought happiness to millions of people for more than 20 centuries.

Q: That Valencia will be the “capital of the world” for families during some days contrasts with the lack of protection that the family is suffering in Spain today. Can communication become a vehicle for values from one realm to another?

Arnal: The family has been, is and will ever be the great solution for society. To support the family is to support the capacity to love, to support children and human rights.

As an institution, it should have its own life, as it really is an axis for society. The authorities therefore should be part of that support. We could talk for ages about the causes for that present, scarce protection, not only in Spain but also in other countries.

However, I don’t think we should consider ourselves “victims,” as the family has enough strength to defend itself. The task of communication in this meeting is to spread Christian family values. It’s not against anyone or anything.

The Christian family should be respected, externally and internally. At times, irony or silence are the methods used by intolerant secularism. The Church has the right and the duty to spread its message. It is an “offer,” not an imposition.

Q: Which tools are you planning to use for the task of information in the religious and general media?

Arnal: The Web site [www.wmf2006.org] may be read in seven languages. It is the main interactive channel for information and communication. It is our great ally to organize and communicate the meeting!

AVAN, the news agency of the archbishop’s office, is also a way to report on the main aspects of the event. During and before the meeting, as long as it is possible, we will also try to make the job for all media easier, with personal or group interviews and, of course, press conferences.

Every media element deserves personal attention and, as a journalist with experience in different kinds of media, I am trying to configure an office which will respond rapidly and adequately to what each one requests.

Q: The theme for this meeting will be the transmission of faith in the family. Do you think the media also has a responsibility to transmit faith?

Arnal: That responsibility does exist. The great tragedy in our times, no doubt, is the gap between culture and faith. Faith should be part of culture, it can’t be reduced to the private realm.

A journalist is supposed to communicate reality, “news,” and hundreds of millions of Catholics, who practice their faith, deserve greater and better information about what they are trying to live. In fact, faith offers rich and exciting contents for every person.

This meeting is also a chance for the media to think about its job, because it should not only mirror reality, but try to shape a more “human” public opinion. Religion is, after all, the most human aspect of man.

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