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God at the center of communications

· At the Catholic University of Murcia ·

The communication of the Church as a challenge and opportunity was at the center of the Third International Congress of Catholic Journalists at the Catholic University of San Antonio di Murcia in Spain. The conference was opened by the Director of L’Osservatore Romano and concluded with a significant reflection by Mons. Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

Initiatives such as this one are very useful for improving Church communications which have been dulled not only by an insufficient cultural adaptation of two often opposed worlds – that of mass media and that of the Church – but also by the sterile atomization of many of the Catholic media initiatives, due to an insistence on highlighting what differentiates them rather than what unites them in the common cause of evangelization.

The theme of the conference summarizes the work that Christian communicators are called to do: on the one hand unite, in a natural way, two realities – the Church and the world of communications – often opposed to each other; and on the other hand, to help the Church to increasingly assume this commitment in a responsible, rather than anxious way, in the service of the New Evangelization which Benedict XVI invites us to in this new “information society.” This environment has become the paradigm of a secularized world especially in the West, where God has been relegated to the margins, if not to total irrelevance. According to the media’s partial logic, religion is extraneous in so far as it belongs to a person’s “private” life, at least if it doesn’t have something “sensational” or “political” about it.

In his homily given in the Plaza del Obradoiro in Santiago de Compostela, Pope Benedict XVI gave one of the most important messages of his pontificate about what the priority mission of the Church today should be: “Her contribution is centered on a simple and decisive reality: God exists and he has given us life. He alone is absolute, faithful and unfailing love, that infinite goal that is glimpsed behind the good, the true and the beautiful things of this world…”

Thus one of the principle duties of Christian communication is to highlight in the media the transcendental dimension of human existence: the religious way, without which we cannot fully understand ourselves or the world. It means putting God in his right place, at the center of the media, because he is at the center of human life.

This demand grows out of not only the inviolable right of humans to the presence of God, but also because of the important right of the person to live the religious dimension of freedom of expression. Thus Benedict XVI’s insistence that the Church returns to the essential in today’s world: that of the existence of God as the foundation of all reality. As the Pope reminded the Latin-American bishops in Aparecida: “What is this “reality”? What is real? Are only material goods, social, economic and political problems “reality”? This was precisely the great error of the dominant tendencies of the last century, a most destructive error, as we can see from the results of both Marxist and capitalist systems. They falsify the notion of reality by detaching it from the foundational and decisive reality which is God. Anyone who excludes God from his horizons falsifies the notion of “reality” and, in consequence, can only end up in blind alleys or with recipes for destruction. The first basic point to affirm, then, is the following: only those who recognize God know reality and are able to respond to it adequately and in a truly human manner. The truth of this thesis becomes evident in the face of the collapse of all the systems that marginalize God.”

In order to restore a normal presence for religion on the communicative agenda, there is first of all a need to re-claim the importance of religious information as a specialized genre, with well-formed professionals; and in the second place, the Church should promote within her ranks the existence of communication professionals, faithful Catholics, and also the creation of Catholic media to represent the Christian vision to the world and avoid its disappearance on the social and cultural scene, in current thought and on the public agenda.

In this way, we will succeed in recuperating from the ruins of modernity and from the dominion of relativism, the semantics of the great truth of man and religion, of transcendence and faith, so elusive in communications today. Helping the media to recuperate a sense of true reality.

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