Tag Archives: Pontifical Council for Social Communications

Pope wants a Church that brings the world to Christ: this is the task of Social Communications

On a yearly basis the Pope meets with the full assembly of the various departments at the Holy See that assist him in his ministry. This past Saturday (21 September 2013) Pope Francis spoke to the participants of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. This Council’s head is Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, 72, and the Secretary is Monsignor Paul Tighe, 55, a priest of the archdiocese of Dublin. There are several cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and laity who serve as a advisors to the Council.

I’ve been noticing nowadays how often Francis uses the words “discernment,” “journey,” “dialogue,” “understanding,” “encounter” –words that contribute to the building of relationships in Jesus Christ. For me, the notion of relationships is key: it is more than mere social networking, or having a familiarity with technology, or a keeping a Facebook community entertained. Being in relationship means being with another in the Christian sense is caring for the destiny of the other, of sharing life, being human, of telling the other the reasons for our hope, having the capacity to be concretely present to another person who may be difficult. Being relational is not the same as engineering a meeting; it is the fundamental posture of openness to someone greater, an openness to everyone.

The controlling ideas of the Pope are thus: meeting Christ today, really, and faithfully, so that we make a journey of faith by building the Kingdom and confessing Jesus as Savior, without fracture, sans fantasy. The concern of Pope Francis ought to be our concern, too: do we communicate that the Church is a home to all people, or a museum of plastic saints???

The address, like the Pope’s recent interview, needs to be read in continuity with the tradition of the Church and in dialogue with each other. Hence, the the following is not meant only for the advisors and other interested parties, but for all the baptized: cleric, religious and lay person. No exception.

Here’s the Pope address with emphasis added.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

I greet you and I thank you for your work and commitment to the important sector of social communications – but having spoken to Archbishop Celli, I must change “sector” to the important “dimension of life” which is that of social communications. I wish to thank Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli for the greeting that he extended to me on your behalf. I would like to share some thoughts with you.

social communicationsFirst of all: the importance of social communications for the Church. This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the Conciliar Decree Inter Mirifica. This anniversary is more than a commemoration; the Decree expresses the Church’s attentiveness towards communication and all its instruments, which are also important in the work of evangelisation. But towards its instruments – communication is not an instrument! It’s something else. In the last few decades, the various means of communication have evolved significantly, but the Church’s concern remains the same, taking on new forms and expressions. The world of social communications, more and more, has become a “living environment” for many, a web where people communicate with each other, expanding the boundaries of their knowledge and relationships (cf. Benedict XVI, Message for the 2013 World Communications Day). I wish to underline these positive aspects, although we are all aware of the limitations and harmful factors which also exist.

In this context – and this is the second reflection – we must ask ourselves: what role should the Church have in terms of its own practical means of communication? In every situation, beyond technological considerations, I believe that the goal is to understand how to enter into dialogue with the men and women of today, in order to appreciate their desires, their doubts, and their hopes. They are men and women who sometimes feel let down by a Christianity that to them appears sterile, struggling precisely to communicate the depth of meaning that faith gives. We do in fact witness today, in the age of globalisation, a growing sense of disorientation and isolation; we see, increasingly, a loss of meaning to life, an inability to connect with a “home”, and a struggle to build meaningful relationships. It is therefore important to know how to dialogue, and how to enter, with discernment, into the environments created by new technologies, into social networks, in such a way as to reveal a presence that listens, converses, and encourages. Do not be afraid to be this presence, expressing your Christian identity as you become citizens of this environment. A Church that follows this path learns how to walk with everybody! And there’s also an ancient rule of the pilgrims, that Saint Ignatius includes, and that’s why I know it! In one of his rules, he says that anyone accompanying a pilgrim must walk at the same pace as the pilgrim, not ahead and not lagging behind. And this is what I mean: a Church that accompanies the journey, that knows how to walk as people walk today. This rule of the pilgrim will help us to inspire things.

last supperThe third: it’s a challenge that we all face together in this environment of social communications, and the problem is not principally technological. We must ask ourselves: are we capable of bringing Christ into this area, or rather, of bringing about the encounter with Christ? To walk with the pilgrim through life, but as Jesus walked with the pilgrims of Emmaus, warming their hearts and leading them to the Lord? Are we capable of communicating the face of a Church which can be a “home” to everyone? We talk about the Church behind closed doors. But this is more than a Church with open doors, it’s more! Finding “home” together, building “home”, building the Church. It’s this: building the Church as we walk. A challenge! To lead to the rediscovery, through means of social communication as well as by personal contact, of the beauty which is at the heart of our existence and our journey, the beauty of faith, the beauty of the encounter with Christ. Even in the context of social communications, the Church is required to bring warmth, to warm hearts. Does our presence and plans measure up to this requirement, or do we remain mired in technicalities? We hold a precious treasure that is to be passed on, a treasure that brings light and hope. They are greatly needed. All this, however, requires a careful and thorough formation in this area for priests, for religious men and women, for laity. The great digital continent does not only involve technology, but is made up of real men and women who bring with them what they carry inside, their hopes, their suffering, their concerns, their pursuit of truth, beauty, and good. We need to show and bring Christ to others, sharing these joys and hopes, like Mary, who brought Christ to the hearts of men and women; we need to pass through the clouds of indifference without losing our way; we need to descend into the darkest night without being overcome and disorientated; we need to listen to the illusions of many, without being seduced; we need to share their disappointments, without becoming despondent; to sympathise with those whose lives are falling apart, without losing our own strength and identity (cf. Pope Francis, Address to the Bishops of Brazil, 27 July 2013, n. 4). This is the walk. This is the challenge.

Dear friends, the concern and the presence of the Church in the world of social communications is important in order to dialogue with the men and women of today and bring them to meet Christ, but the encounter with Christ is personal. It cannot be manipulated. In these times we see a great temptation within the Church, which is spiritual harassment: the manipulation of conscience; a theological brainwashing which in the end leads to an encounter with Christ which is purely nominal, not with the Live Person of Christ. In a person’s encounter with Christ, both Christ and the person need to be involved! Not what’s wanted by the “spiritual engineer”, who wants to manipulate people. This is the challenge. To bring about the encounter with Christ in the full knowledge, though, that we ourselves are means of communication, and that the fundamental problem is not the acquisition of the latest technologies, although these are necessary to a valid, contemporary presence. It is necessary to be absolutely clear that the God in whom we believe, who loves all men and women intensely, wants to reveal himself through the means at our disposal, however poor they are, because it is he who is at work, he who transforms, and he who saves us.

Let us all pray that the Lord may warm our hearts and sustain us in the engaging mission of bringing him to the world. I ask you for your prayers, because this is my mission too, and I assure you of my blessing.

Benedict XVI to tweet… join in

You heard yesterday that Pope Benedict XVI is now tweeting. Terrific!

The Papal Twitter account is up and running: @Pontifex

B16 twitter page.jpg

As of right now, the English page has 381K followers, the German has 9.5K, the Spanish 88K, the Italian has 36K, the French has 7k and the Arabic has 3,000.

The Press Office of the Holy See said the following about the Papal presence in the digital media.

The The Pope’s presence on Twitter
is a concrete expression of his conviction that the Church must be present in
the digital arena. This initiative is best understood in the context of his
reflections on the importance of the cultural space that has been brought into
being by the new technologies. In his Message for World Communications Day
2009, which was published on the same day as the Vatican’s Youtube channel was
opened, Pope Benedict spoke of the necessity of evangelizing the ‘digital
continent’ and he invited young believers, in particular, to introduce
into the culture of this new environment of communications and information
technology the values on which you have built your lives

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Speaking of God in 140 characters

Pope with iPad.jpgThe Pope will tweet. Is this a mortal sin or a gospel value?

In today’s L’Osservatore Romano edition Mario Ponzi
writes of Pope Benedict’s latest venture into tweeting. The Pope is not going to give up his love of books, old fashion research and handwriting his talks, but he’s diving into more deeply in the digital world. He’ll have to keep his message
to 140 characters. Can he do it? I am sure the clarity of the Pope can be
limited to a mere 140 characters. It’s ancient history now in cyberworld but it
was June 2011 that the Holy Father touched his own iPad launching the Vatican’s
News.va portal; tweeting in five languages
is a polymath way of  communicating
at the Vatican.

Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, 71, president of the Pontifical
Council for Social Communications
 since 2007, last week delivered his keynote address at
the 100th anniversary of Our Sunday Visitor. Celli has been hardworking in
moving the Holy See into the 21st century with an acceptance of social media and its benefits for communicating the gospel effectively today.

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Church thinking about social communication

How theologians might reflect on communication and information technologies and the new culture that they create formed the basis of a symposium sponsored by the Pontifical Council on Social Communication, held at the Jesuit-sponsored Santa Clara University in California (USA) in late June. The PCCS, along with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Communications and the University’s Communication Department, convened a gathering of 25 theologians to begin a process of sustained theological reflection. The group focused on three general areas: ecclesiology, approaches from historical theology, and a theological understanding of digital culture, in each area considering the challenges that contemporary communication poses to the church’s theological understanding.

Communication, whether the mass media or the Internet, has changed the environment in which people live, raising questions about church structure, personal identity, parish life, religious self-understanding, and religious formation and participation. For example, people take their identity from popular culture more than from the Church’s catechetics or even from the Gospel. The same mass media also promote a vertical model of the Church in which the local community, the parish, and the diocese disappear, so that only “the Catholic Church” headed by the Pope matters. Each of these poses a serious ecclesiological challenge, as each redefines the nature of the Church.

To read the whole article, see the text here.

“Building a New World”: exploring human and spiritual issues through film


“Building a New World” is new initiative Interdisciplinary Centre  for Social Communications of the Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome, Italy) beginning today, Friday, 2 March.

This project is focused on film and the power film has in our lives. The premise is: a good film liberates, forms and calls us to a new way of seeing and engaging in reality. Therefore, the good people at the Gregorian are exploring how a good movie or documentary can invite people to greatness through the imagination and research how a poorly written movie with mediocre images can severely handicap one’s openness to the true, the beautiful and the good. Just think of the good Father Robert Barron’s “Catholicism” project is doing for those learning the Catholic faith for the first time or those renewing their faith; or how damaging “The Deputy” was to to the person of Pope Pius XII and the rest of the Church.

Jesuit Father Lloyd Baugh, a professor of film,  told Vatican Radio that the initiative honors the 30th anniversary of the University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Study. It is popular these days to get at human, theological and philosphical issues by the use of film. Friends of mine do it regularly in the schools in which they instruct young minds: Benedictine Father Bede Price teaches a theology and film course at his abbey’s Priory School (St Louis, MO) and Jesuit Father Edward Oakes does so at Mundelein Seminary (outside Chicago, IL). Father Baugh he teaches theology using film as the text for class: Christology through the “Jesus films,” moral issues through the “The Decalogue” of Kieslowski, interreligious dialogue through a whole series of films from different religious traditions and so on.

The current cycle of films starting today will be inaugurated by the Gregorian University Rector Jesuit Father Dumortier, Archbishop Claudio Celli, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, of Jesuit Father Savarimuthu, director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies at the Gregorian University, and Father Baugh.

The first film is “Welcome.” which focuses on a young Kurdish boy who attempts to illegally enter England, and in doing so encounters other people changing their vision of the world, and ultimately their lives. “Welcome” is a award 2009 winning film directed by Philippe Loiret.

Other films include

March 23: “Water” (2005 Deepa Mehta film) focuses on Asia and on “the right to Freedom” drawing attention to the tragic reality of millions of young girls in India who are promised in marriage to elderly men and widowed shortly thereafter, leaving them destitute for the rest of their lives.

April 20: “La Zona” (2007 Roderigo Pla film) dedicated to the “Americas” and to the “right to Justice”, highlighting the persistent and ever-growing disparity between rich and poor particualrly in Latin America.

May 4: “Son of Man” (2006 Mark Dornford May) looks at the plight of the African continent and its “right to Hope”. May directs a narrative of the Gospel and situating the contemporaneous of the biblical reality of a township outside of Cape Town. The desire for peace is continuously punctuated by violence. It is a look at how Jesus would respond to the human reality before his eyes and what he does to change people’s hearts.

Screenings are free and everyone is welcome. For more information visit: www.unigre.it

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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