Archbishop calls Pope’s new Letter to Communicators, “a masterpiece of intuition”

This morning, Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, presented a new Apostolic Letter from Pope John Paul II entitled, 'Rapid Development’, addressed to “Those Responsible for Communications.”

Archbishop Foley was joined by, Bishop Renato Boccardo and Angelo Scelzo, respectively secretary and under-secretary. The Pontifical Council begins its annual plenary session today.

Archbishop Foley said that both he, as a priest journalist, and Pope John Paul, as bishop and conciliar father, were in St. Peter's Basilica on December 4, 1963 for the promulgation of the Vatican Council II decree on communications, "Inter mirifica."

The Archbishop noted that it was "the first time a council of the Church specifically treated the theme of social communications, the decree called for a pastoral instruction on social communications and the document also called for establishing a specific Vatican department which would be concerned with all the means of social communication."

Foley noted that the Letter presented today, is the result of a wish expressed a year ago by the Holy Father to commemorate the anniversary of "Inter Mirifca" with a new document.

"I was sincerely moved," he said, reading the Pope's words. "The document for me is a personal mediation, a challenge and a plan of action."

"'Rapid Development'," the Archbishop underscored, "is a masterpiece of intuition on the meaning of the means of social communications in our times.”

He called to mind paragraph three, where the Pope writes that, “The communications media have acquired such importance as to be the principal means of guidance and inspiration for many people in their personal, familial and social behavior. ... Ours is an age of global communications in which countless moments of human existence are either spent with, or at least confronted by, the different processes of the mass media."

Bishop Boccardo, also present, said that, "many times in his interventions, John Paul II has affirmed that questions posed by the media are, at their heart, of an eminently anthropological nature. ... He thinks of the media as active agents in the building of horizons of cultures and values in which every man and women understands themselves, others and the world."

Boccardo pointed to some of the problems in the world of communications, saying that, "the media are building models of perception of reality that often obey anthropological visions that are no longer inspired by Christianity.”

“Without appearing to be apocalyptic, but also not giving in to overly optimistic visions,” he continued, “we cannot be silent on the representations of the meaning of life that (the media) today toss into the arena of public debate and that are almost entirely beyond any Christian understanding of life.”

All we need to do is recall how so often television becomes a powerful instrument for personal aggression, for occasions of denigration and for battle arenas that are often vulgar and tasteless. Publicity is also part of this degenerative process."

Bishop Boccardo pointed out that there must be a serious ethical reflection on personal and social responsibility within the world of the media, especially with new instruments such as the Internet.

"The Internet”, he said, “redefines in a radical way the psychological relation of a person with time and space. What is tangible, useful, and immediately available draws attention," but what often is missing is a process of "deeper reflection. ... The person who is online is a person of the present, of immediate satisfaction" who seeks answers in "the great warehouse of readily available experiences."

"How can the Church," he asked, "help men and women who work in the media and who use it to undertake a path of new humanism, of a renewed centrality of the human person?" He said that the Holy Father, in "Rapid Development," suggests three paths; formation, participation and dialogue.

"Believers, men and women who have man's destiny at heart, have the responsibility for cultural discernment. We are not asked to have shining armor to overcome Goliath, but simply to know how to choose a few stones, the right ones, with the wisdom and courage of David."

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