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Sunday 5 June 2011

Message for World Communications Day 2011

 

My Dear Brothers and Sisters,

 

The visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Scotland last September taught the Catholic community a great deal about the media. We learned how the media is an amazingly influential opinion former in our culture, as every moment of the Pope s visit was reported, analysed and broadcast to the whole world in print and through radio, television and the internet. Before the visit, someone remarked that the Pope s visit would be a success if the media declared it to be a success. Thankfully the Pope s visit was a success and we are grateful to the media for playing its part so professionally and so well.      

 

Catholics were also reminded that the media is not simply a news-gathering or truth-seeking organisation. Newspapers, broadcasters and websites can have their own agenda and favourite narrative, even when such a narrative is shown to be exaggerated or mistaken. We learned this painful truth in the months leading up to the Pope s visit as some sections of the media perpetuated an agenda predicting the visit would be a failure, mired in controversy and blighted by indifference. Thankfully when the Pope arrived in our midst, his graciousness, gentleness and compassion quickly dispelled the pre-visit caricatures and the media rose to the occasion, offering us some glorious coverage of the Pope s visit.

 

In the context of the papal visit, we also saw that some sections of the media in part reflected and in part generated quite deep anti-Catholic sentiment. Commentators expressed severe and intemperate judgements, and media organisations gave disproportionate space in newspapers, radio and television to people who have the most critical opinions about the Catholic Church. At times it seemed we were being overwhelmed in a sea of opprobrium.

 

Yet the media chastisement of the Catholic Church may still have served a good purpose. As St Paul reminds us, Omnia in bonum   “ "All turns out for the good of those who love God".  (Romans 8:28).    It created a climate of sorrow and penance within the Church for the sin of sexual abuse and for its mishandling by church authorities; it highlighted the significant voice the Church continues to exert in public life and galvanised Catholics to show their loyalty and affection for the successor of Peter.

 

This year the Holy Father once more focuses on the enormous potential of the internet and social networks in his World Communications Day Message, affirming boldly that, there exists a Christian way of being present in the digital world.

 

I warmly welcome the Holy Father s words and encourage all our parishes and organisations to make use of the new opportunities the digital media offer us. At the same time the Church affirms the mass media in its work, encouraging it to carry out its essential role in our society truthfully, fairly and impartially. The Catholic Church esteems media professionals and underlines their right to work in freedom and safety. The Catholic Church unequivocally affirms the media as a force for good in the modern world.

 

The Media Office and communications professionals working for the Church in Scotland were at the forefront of the success of the Pope s visit to Scotland, briefing and assisting the world s media in myriad ways, instigating the St. Ninian s Pageant in Edinburgh, defending the Pope and the Church against some outrageous accusations, and attempting to bring truth and perspective to the negative narrative which persisted in the pre-visit period. The special collection at today s Mass traditionally goes to support our Communications and Media Office. The papal visit showed that this is a good and necessary cause, and I ask you to be generous today in supporting it.

 

Yours devotedly,

+ Philip Tartaglia

Bishop of Paisley

President of the Communications Commission of the Bishops Conference of Scotland

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