People have come from all over the world to Rome this week to examine the Church's place in the technological age. Opening the deliberations, the head of the Vatican council for communications outlined some of the themes of the congress, which include a look at the identity and mission of Catholic media.
The Pontifical Council for Social Communications (PCCS) is sponsoring the "Catholic Press Congress," which began just a few blocks from Vatican City at the St. Pius X Auditorium on Monday. Organizers said there were around 230 representatives from 85 countries present on the first day, representing the Catholic media worldwide.
Opening the four-day examination of "Catholic press in the digital age," the council's president, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, set the tone in his inaugural speech, saying that participants and organizers were there to listen to each other and to find answers to uncertainties in the field.
He emphasized that the encounter was called because there was a need to come together to analyze the theme in the current global context, which he called "strongly influenced and marked by new technologies that push towards 'multimediality'."
"It needs to be recognized," the archbishop said, " ... that we are living in an historic moment in which the secular press itself is interrogating itself on its own future" while the Catholic press is also addressing the "numerous challenges linked to its specificity."
Archbishop Celli said that in such a context all news sources should be examining their identities and missions. Pointing to the mission of the Catholic press, he said that it should be examined from “a perspective of service,” and, he added, "this will be made possible only if we ask ourselves what its role should be in society and in the Church."
He brought up such issues as the Church's response to sexual abuse committed by clergy, discrimination against Christians seen in countries with majority populations of believers, and the important role of the press within the Church.
Archbishop Celli also asked whether or not one of the main challenges to Catholic media today might be the keeping the debate on "meaning" alive and "ensuring a place for the question of the infinite" in the world.
To examine these and related themes, the morning session of the congress was dedicated to looking at challenges and opportunities to the future of the press. In the afternoon, after a video that focused on the "identity, vitality and mission" of Catholic press today, a panel of four leaders from prominent Catholic publications returned to global challenges.
The congress will continue through Thursday, when participants will meet in audience with Pope Benedict XVI.