Tuesday, November 12, 2002
The Holy Father's Missionary Intentions for November:
That the Gospel may spread by means of Christians' activity in the new means of social communications
Commentary by Paola Bignardi, president of Catholic Action Italy:
Rome (Fides Service) - The Council described them as "marvellous technical inventions" capable of "uplifting and enriching the spirit and also of spreading and consolidating the Kingdom of God" (Intermirifica, 1-2). Paul VI added that the Church would feel guilty before her Lord if she failed to use them because "when put at the service of the Gospel the media are capable of increasing almost indefinitely the area in which the Word of God is heard; they enable the Good News to reach millions of people" (Evangelii nuntiandi 45). Furthermore, since Pope John Paul in his Redemptoris missio encyclical referred to them as a new "areopagus" for the modern world, the means of social communications have become not only a tool for evangelisation but a "place" in which the Christian message can fruitfully encounter the lives of the men and women of the 21st century. Moreover the Internet presents a "forum" for the proclamation of the Gospel.
Without a doubt the media are able to spread the Gospel message, acting as marvellous loudspeakers for the voice of the Church: an aerial which follows to the letter Jesus' call to "preach from the housetops". But to spread the Gospel through the new media, means also putting the latter at the service of the values of the Kingdom of God, using them to foster among people sincerity and brotherhood, justice and peace. This is another way of sowing seeds of the Gospel in the soil of today's humanity.
Evangelising the media themselves is a task which the Christian community cannot underestimate. It is not a question of rendering the media Christian, but of making their finalities, practices and methods more human. Believers are called to work and to watch to ensure that the media respect the human person, human dignity, that they are free of occult interests and powers, aware of their role and necessary limits and rediscover their function as society's critical conscience rather than its anaesthetic .
For this to come about it is not enough to increase the Church's use of the media, we must ensure sound knowledge of this complex reality regulated by its own dynamic laws, we must develop competence and educational initiatives, using the media rather than letting the media use us. We should remember that they are not only tools, they are a culture, an atmosphere in which we breathe and move.
Today, more than ever before, it is so easy to spread news and connect people at a great distance from each other, and yet often communication remains cold, superficial: at times the media serves to mask or to stress the distance between persons. The Christian nature of our communication is based not only on its contents, it is measured by coherence with the words of the Gospel which we offer. After all doesn't the means influence the message and vice versa?
The new means of communication are from this viewpoint a new challenge and a new resource, particularly when they allow reciprocity of space and freedom. The Christian community has already demonstrated that it does not fear the risks or ambiguities of the media and it has studded the web with Gospel buttons. The next goal is not to be content with this comfortable corner in the "global village", but to go out and sow the Word even on those digital motorways which would appear to be most indifferent to the Gospel.
Focussing on most advanced technology however, should not mean that we neglect personal dialogue: that intimate sharing the Word, face to face, the method used from the start to spread the Gospel, which has carried it "to the ends of the earth". Paola Bignardi. (Courtesy: Fides)
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