Today, the Vatican released Pope Benedict’s message for this year’s World Day of Social Communications, in which he said that with the proper focus, mass media can be used as a tool to foster the dignity of the human person and promote truth and peace.
He added however, that if the industry is self-serving and merely profit driven, it can become a detriment to peace and harm the individuality of persons.
The Day of Communications is scheduled to be held on May 28th and will address the theme: "The Media: A Network for Communication, Communion and Cooperation."
The document’s release comes on the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists.
In the Message, now available in Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese, the Pope reflected that "Technological advances in the media have in certain respects conquered time and space, making communication between people, even when separated by vast distances, both instantaneous and direct.”
He said that while “This development presents an enormous potential for service of the common good,” that “...daily we are reminded that immediacy of communication does not necessarily translate into the building of cooperation and communion in society.”
Stressing that the informing of consciences is “never a neutral task,” Benedict called on those working in the media “not to wilt under the weight of so much information nor even to be content with partial or provisional truths.”
He also called on members of the media to be responsible, seeking and transmitting “what is the ultimate foundation and meaning of human, personal and social existence…In this way the media can contribute constructively to the propagation of all that is good and true.”
The Pope warned against the industry becoming “self-serving or solely profit-driven” saying that there can be a tendency in the media that engenders “a kind of monoculture that dims creative genius, deflates the subtlety of complex thought and undervalues the specificity of cultural practices and the particularity of religious belief.”
On the flip side, however, he said that it is possible for “today's media to be responsible - to be the protagonist of truth and promoter of the peace that ensues.”
Pope Benedict stressed that "Accurate reporting of events, full explanation of matters of public concern, and fair representation of diverse points of view must, then, always be fostered.”
He particularly highlighted “The need to uphold and support marriage and family life….precisely because it pertains to the foundation of every culture and society. In cooperation with parents, the social communications and entertainment industries can assist in the difficult but sublimely satisfying vocation of bringing up children, through presenting edifying models of human life and love."
In order to "encourage both a constructive presence and a positive perception of the media in society,” Benedict reiterated three steps laid out by his predecessor, John Paul II, which he said are necessary “for the service of the common good: formation, participation, and dialogue.”
"Formation”, he said, “in the responsible and critical use of the media helps people to use them intelligently and appropriately. ... Precisely because contemporary media shape popular culture, they themselves must overcome any temptation to manipulate, especially the young, and instead pursue the desire to form and serve.”
“In this way”, he said, “They protect rather than erode the fabric of a civil society worthy of the human person.
Secondly, the Pope said that "Participation in the mass media arises from their nature as a good destined for all people. As a public service, social communication requires a spirit of cooperation and co-responsibility with vigorous accountability of the use of public resources and the performance of roles of public trust, including recourse to regulatory standards and other measures or structures designed to effect this goal.”
Finally, Benedict called for the “promotion of dialogue through the exchange of learning, the expression of solidarity and the espousal of peace presents a great opportunity for the mass media which must be recognized and exercised.”
He said that through dialogue, the media “become influential and appreciated resources for building the civilization of love for which all peoples yearn.”
With these three steps, the Holy Father expressed his confidence that the industry could help “men, women and children, to become more aware of the dignity of the human person, more responsible, and more open to others especially the neediest and the weakest members of society."
In closing his Message, Pope Benedict called to mind the "encouraging words of St. Paul”, who said, “'Christ is our peace. In Him we are one.' Let us together break down the dividing walls of hostility and build up the communion of love according to the designs of the Creator made known through His Son!"
To view full text of Pope Benedict XVI's message: