At 10 o’clock this morning, the Holy Father Francis received in audience — in the Hall of the Consistory of the Apostolic Vatican Palace –, the participants in the first Plenary Assembly of the Secretariat for Communications, underway in the Vatican from May 3-5, 2017.
Here is a working translation of the Pope’s address in the course of the meeting.
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Dear Cardinals, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am very happy to receive you on the occasion of the First Plenary Assembly of the Secretariat for Communication, which sees you committed to deepening your mutual knowledge and examining the steps taken up to now by the Dicastery, which I desired for a new communicative system of the Holy See, in addition to reflecting on a subject that is all the more timely and thought-provoking as is that of the digital culture.
I thank the Prefect, Monsignor Vigano, for his introduction and I wish to express my gratitude to him and to you here present and also to all those who have contributed in various ways to the preparation of the work of these days.
The argument treated in the Plenary is one of those that I have very much at heart; I have already addressed it on several occasions. It is about studying criteria and new ways to communicate the Gospel of mercy to all peoples, in the heart of the different cultures, through the media that the new digital cultural context puts at the disposition of our contemporaries.
This Dicastery, which will be two years old on June 27 — two candles — is in full reform. And we must not be afraid of this word. To reform is not to “whitewash” things a bit: reform is to give another form to things, to organize them in another way. And it must be done with intelligence, with meekness, but also, also – allow me the word – with a bit of “violence,” but good, good violence,, to reform things. It is in full reform from the moment that it is a new reality, which is now taking irreversible steps. In this case, in fact, it is not about the coordination or fusion of previous Dicasteries, but about building a true and proper institution ex novo, as I wrote in the institutive Motu proprio: “The present communicative context, characterized by the presence and the development of the digital media, by factors of convergence and inter-activity, requires a re-thinking of the Holy See’s informative system and commits to a reorganization that, appreciating what has been developed in history within the order of the Apostolic See’s communication, proceeds decidedly towards a unity integration and management. For these reasons – I continued – I have held that all the realities that, in different ways up to today, have been concerned with communication, should be merged in a new Dicastery of the Roman Curia, which will be called Secretariat for Communication. Thus the Holy See’s communicative system will respond ever better to the needs of the mission of the Church.”
This new communicative system is born from the need of the so-called “digital convergence.” In fact, in the past every communicative means had its own channels. Every expressive form had its own medium: written words the newspaper or books, images, photographs and those in movement the cinema and the television, spoken words and music the radio and CDs. All these forms of communication are transmitted today with one code that exploits the binary system. In this framework, therefore, “L’Osservatore Romano,” which from next year will be part of the new Dicastery, must find a new and different way, to be able to reach a greater number of readers than it does in the paper format. Vatican Radio also, which for years has become a whole of portals, must be rethought according to new models and adapted to modern technologies and the needs of our contemporaries. In connection with the radiophonic service, I would like to underscore the effort that the Dicastery is making in relations with countries with little technological availability (I am thinking, for instance, of Africa) for the rationalization of the Short Waves., which have never been abandoned. And I want to stress this: they have never been abandoned. In a few months the Libreria Editrice Vaticana, the former Vatican Polyglot Typography also and, as I said, “L’Osservatore Romano” will become part of the great community of work of the new Dicastery, and this will require willingness to be harmonized with a new productive and distributive plan. The work is great, the challenge is great, but it can be done, it must be done.
Undoubtedly, the history is a patrimony of precious experiences to preserve and to use as a push toward the future. Otherwise it would be reduced to a museum, interesting and beautiful to visit, but unable to provide strength and courage to continue on the way.
Placed, moreover, in this horizon of building a new communicative system, is the demanding effort of personal formation and updating.
Dear brothers and sisters, the work that awaits you is broad and articulated. This reform will be brought to fulfilment with the contribution of each one that, “valuing what has been developed in history within the order of the Apostolic See’s communication,” is ordered to “a unity integration and management” (Statute of the Secretariat of Communication, September 6, 2015).
Therefore, I encourage you to work in the study commissions, with detailed analyses and, once the courses are singled out, to decide and proceed courageously in keeping with the criteria chosen.
Moreover, I ask you that the guiding criteria be apostolic and missionary, with special attention to situations of hardship, poverty and difficulty, in the awareness that these must also be addressed today with appropriate solutions. Thus it will become possible to take the Gospel to all, to use to advantage the human resources, without replacing the communication of the local Churches and, at the same time, supporting the ecclesial communities that have most need.
Let us not be overcome by the temptation of attachment to a glorious past; instead, let us make a great team play to better answer the new communicative challenges that the culture demands from us today, without fear and without imagining apocalyptic scenarios.
While I renew my gratitude to you for having accepted to work in this very important and delicate ambit of the Church’s mission, I also wish my greeting and gratitude to reach the recently appointed Consultors. I exhort you to give witness of collaboration and fraternal sharing, while I invoke upon all of you the Lord’s blessing, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church, who, with her tenderness, always watches over you.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]