VATICAN CITY, OCT. 29, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI’s address on Thursday, during the audience to participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
* * *
Venerated Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
With great joy I give you my most cordial welcome on the occasion of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. First of all, I wish to express my gratitude to Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of your pontifical council, for the courteous words he addressed to me on your behalf. I extend my greeting to his collaborators and those of you here present, thanking you for the contribution you offer to the working sessions of the plenary assembly and the service you offer the Church in the field of social communications.
These days you have paused to reflect on the new technologies of communication. Even a not very attentive observer can easily see that in our time, thanks to the most modern technologies, a genuine revolution is taking place in the realm of social communications, of which the Church is ever more responsibly conscious. These technologies make possible a speedy and penetrating communication, with a capacity to share ideas and opinions; to facilitate acquiring information and news in a personal way accessible to all.
The Pontifical Council for Social Communications has been following for some time this amazing and rapid evolution of the media, in the light of the magisterium of the Church. I would like to recall here, in particular, two pastoral instructions, “Communio et Progressio” of Pope Paul VI and “Aetatis Novae,” published at the behest of John Paul II. These are two authoritative documents of my venerated predecessors, which have fostered and promoted in the Church a widespread sensitization on these topics.
Moreover, the great social changes that have occurred in the last 20 years have exacted and continue to exact a careful analysis on the presence and action of the Church in this field. The Servant of God John Paul II, in the encyclical “Redemptoris Missio” (1990) recalled that “the work in these means does not only have the objective of multiplying the proclamation. It is a more profound event, because evangelization itself of the modern culture depends in large part on their influence.” And he added: “It is not enough, then, to use them to spread the Christian message and the Magisterium of the Church, but it would be good to integrate the message itself in this ‘new culture’ created by modern communication” (No. 17 c.). In fact, modern culture arises, even before the contents, from the very fact that new ways of communication exist with new languages, new techniques, new psychological behavior. All this constitutes a challenge for the Church, called to proclaim the Gospel to men of the third millennium, keeping the content unaltered, but making it comprehensible thanks also to the instruments and means harmonious with the mentality and the cultures of today.
The means of social communication, as they are called in the conciliar decree “Inter Mirifica,” have assumed today potentialities and functions which at that moment were difficult to imagine. The multimedia character and structural interactivity of each of the new means, has diminished, in a certain sense, the specific character of each one of them, generating little by little a sort of global system of communication, according to which, though each means keeps its own peculiar character, the present evolution of the world of communication obliges increasingly to speak of only one form of communication, which synthesizes different sources or connects them reciprocally.
Among you, dear friends, there are many experts in this matter and you can analyze with more professionalism the different dimensions of this phenomenon, including above all the anthropological. I would like to take advantage of the opportunity to invite those who work in the Church in the realm of communication and have responsibilities of pastoral guidance to take up the challenges that these new technologies pose to evangelization.
In this year’s message on the occasion of the World Day of Social Communications, when stressing the importance that the new technologies have, I encouraged those responsible for the communicative processes at all levels, to promote a culture of respect for the dignity and value of the person, a dialogue rooted in the sincere search for truth, friendship that is not an end in itself, but capable of developing the gifts of each one to put them at the service of the human community. In this way, the Church exercises what we could describe as a “diakonia of culture” in the present “digital continent,” traversing its paths to proclaim the Gospel, only Word that can save man.
It corresponds to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications to reflect further on each element of the new media culture, beginning with its ethical aspects, and to exercise a service of orientation and guidance to help the individual Churches to understand the importance of communication, which represents today a firm point of any pastoral plan which can never be given up. The characteristics of the new means make possible precisely, including on a large scale and in a global dimension, an action of consultation, of exchange, of coordination, which in addition to enhancing an effective diffusion of the evangelical message, avoids on occasions a useless waste of energies and resources. However, in the case of believers, the necessary appreciation of the new media technologies must be supported always by a constant vision of faith, knowing that, beyond the means that are used, the efficacy of the proclamation of the Gospel depends in the first place on the action of the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church and the way of humanity.
Dear brothers and sisters: this year the 50th anniversary is celebrated of the foundation of the Vatican Film Archive, instituted by my venerated predecessor, Blessed John XXIII, which has collected and catalogued material recorded from 1896 up to today, capable of illustrating the history of the Church. The Vatican Film Archive has, therefore, a rich cultural patrimony, which belongs to the whole of humanity. While I express my heartfelt gratitude for what has been done, I encourage you to continue in this interesting work of recollection, which documents the stages of the journey of Christianity, through the thought-provoking testimony of the image, so that these goods will be looked after and known.
To those of you who are present here, I again thank you for the contribution you offer the Church in a particularly important realm at this time, as is that of social communications, and I assure you of my closeness so that the action of your Pontifical Council will continue to bear many fruits. On each of you I invoke the intercession of the Virgin and impart to you all the apostolic blessing.
[Translation by ZENIT]