04 May 2008

' . . . deliver us some emails. Amen.'

Bishop Peter Ingham of Wollongong, Australia, has a YouTube video on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) on the theme, THE INTERNET, a world of possibilities & responsibilities.

The ACBC has an accompanying pastoral letter on Internet Safety.

Bishop Ingham's video message, and the pastoral letter, point out how young people today are influenced and formed by the internet and the bishop tells a little story to illustrate this, a story that gives the title to this post.

All this is on the occasion of the 42nd World Communications Sunday, which the Church observes on the Sunday after Ascensions Thursday. Many countries, including the Philippines, have transferred the Solemnity of the Ascension to the following Sunday, the Seventh Sunday of Easter, today.

You can read Pope Benedict's message for the day here. Its theme is The Media: At the Crossroads between Self-Promotion and Service. Searching for the Truth in order to Share it with Others. The Pope puts the whole question in a moral-ethical context:

4. The role that the means of social communication have acquired in society must now be considered an integral part of the “anthropological” question that is emerging as the key challenge of the third millennium. Just as we see happening in areas such as human life, marriage and the family, and in the great contemporary issues of peace, justice and protection of creation, so too in the sector of social communications there are essential dimensions of the human person and the truth concerning the human person coming into play. When communication loses its ethical underpinning and eludes society’s control, it ends up no longer taking into account the centrality and inviolable dignity of the human person. As a result it risks exercising a negative influence on people’s consciences and choices and definitively conditioning their freedom and their very lives. For this reason it is essential that social communications should assiduously defend the person and fully respect human dignity. Many people now think there is a need, in this sphere, for “info-ethics”, just as we have bioethics in the field of medicine and in scientific research linked to life.

Benedict XVI has a profound respect for man as man:

6. Man thirsts for truth, he seeks truth; this fact is illustrated by the attention and the success achieved by so many publications, programmes or quality fiction in which the truth, beauty and greatness of the person, including the religious dimension of the person, are acknowledged and favourably presented. Jesus said: “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32). The truth which makes us free is Christ, because only he can respond fully to the thirst for life and love that is present in the human heart.

Our Holy Father sees the area of the media as one that calls for the kind of witnesses that the readings for the Ascension call for:

Let us ask the Holy Spirit to raise up courageous communicators and authentic witnesses to the truth, faithful to Christ’s mandate and enthusiastic for the message of the faith, communicators who will “interpret modern cultural needs, committing themselves to approaching the communications age not as a time of alienation and confusion, but as a valuable time for the quest for the truth and for developing communion between persons and peoples” (John Paul II, Address to the Conference for those working in Communications and Culture, 9 November 2002).

Though the pope's message doesn't mention it, it's an interesting fact that one of the great apostles in the use of modern mass communication - print and radio - was St Maximilian Kolbe who gave his life in 1941 in the Nazi concnentration camp in Auschwitz for a young married Polish soldier whom he didn't even know.

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