Noting the influence of media on perception of reality in an ever developing world, the Holy Father on Thursday called Catholic communications experts to base their efforts in the truth of the Word of God. The "Word," he said, continues to be the "fundamental and ... essential instrument of communication."
The Holy Father met with participants on the final day of this week's Catholic Press Congress promoted by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. The conference has examined the place of the Church in the digital age, inviting Catholic communications professionals from all over the world to the Vatican to share their experiences.
Benedict XVI spoke of two aspects concerning Catholics working in the media: the nature of the press in a globalized era marked by changing technologies and how Catholic publications should strive to remain “explicitly and substantially” faithful to Church teaching by daily committing to follow the path of truth.
"Catholic journalists must seek the truth with impassioned minds and hearts", he explained, "but also with the professionalism of competent workers equipped with adequate and efficient means.” This is more important than ever today, he said, as the idea of "image" is becoming increasingly important.
Explaining that there are positive aspects of putting increased importance on promoting "image" through new technologies, he said that it can also result in a detachment from reality, thus "giving life to a virtual world, with various consequences."
The first among these, he continued, is the "risk of indifference towards what is real," that "technologies and the progress they bring can render the true and the false interchangeable, they can lead to a confusion between real and virtual."
This can lead to a perspective of seeing the events, regardless of nature, as mere spectacle and not as occasions for reflection, he noted. In this case, the Pope said, the "search for ways for an authentic promotion of man passes then to the second plane, because the event is presented mainly to arouse emotions.
"These aspects resound as an alarm bell: they invite consideration of the danger that the virtual may distance (one) from the reality and might not stimulate the search for 'the true,' the truth."
"In this context, the Catholic press is called, in a new way, to give full expression to its potential and, day by day, to give the reasons for its indispensable mission."
Reflecting on how Christianity shares a "fundamental structure with communication: the fact that the means and the message coincide,” Pope Benedict said that this facilitates the mission of the Catholic media. "Indeed," he said, "the Son of God, the Word incarnate, is, at one and the same time, the message of salvation and the means though which salvation is achieved. This is not a mere concept but a reality accessible to everyone".
The "Word" continues to be the "fundamental and ... essential instrument of communication."
Saying that people who work in the Catholic press must "always put God at the top of their scale of values," if they do not wish to be just a 'clanging cymbal,' he told them that their task is "that of helping modern man to turn to Christ, the one Savior, and to keep the flame of hope alight in the world, so as to live worthily today and to adequately build the future.
"For this reason," he concluded, "I exhort you to constantly renew your personal choice for Christ, drawing on those spiritual resources which, though undervalued by the modern mentality, remain valuable, indeed, indispensable."