ROME, NOV. 3, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The Italian bishops’ conference is organizing a symposium here Nov. 7-9 on the theme “Parables on Electronic Media: Building Culture in the Era of Communication.”
Bishop Crispin Hollis of Portsmouth, England, one of the main participants in the event and a former president of the Media Committee of the European bishops’ conference (CEEM), spoke with ZENIT about the challenges facing the Church in this area.
Q: Are Catholic communities responding well to the new communication challenges?
Bishop Hollis: The response of parishes to the new communications challenges varies greatly, but in my own Diocese of Portsmouth, I am happy to say that there is an increasing use of the Internet and of Web sites.
Many parishes have their own sites and I am very pleased that I can communicate with almost all the priests and deacons of the diocese by e-mail. This makes urgent communications very simple.
In England and Wales as a whole, there is a Catholic Communications Service which is becoming increasingly pro-active in its relationships with the secular press and the broadcast media. It also maintains very active contacts with the Catholic press.
In contrast with many other countries in Europe, the Catholic press is not controlled by the bishops’ conference. It is independent but Catholic, and does its best to serve the many and varied groups which exist in the Catholic community.
The challenges — and opportunities — particularly those which arise from the Internet, are beginning to be faced and we are becoming more and more aware of the promise which the Web holds of a rich and fresh way of communicating the Gospel in today’s world.
At the same time, we have to remember that the media are no more than what they are — means — and means to an end. In the last analysis, there can be no substitute for the personal conviction of a lived and witnessing faith in Jesus Christ.
Q: Is communication a priority in the Church’s agenda?
Bishop Hollis: Communication is increasingly a priority on the Church’s agenda because we are immersed in a culture which is so heavily dominated by the media.
All information and expressed opinions are rapidly communicated by increasingly effective technology and the Church, like any other organization, has to speak to the culture of the day in the language of that culture.
Q: How can Catholic parishes articulate better their communication?
Bishop Hollis: The parishes still rely very largely on tried and tested techniques for their communications but, more and more, they are developing Web sites and are responding to the opportunities that are presented to them by the modern technology which surrounds us.
Q: Do you think the European bishops are really aware of the importance of the new communication context?
Bishop Hollis: A recent symposium held in France under the auspices of CEEM made it very clear that European bishops and bishops’ conferences are increasingly aware of the challenges and opportunities that are placed before us.