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What is World Communications Day?

30 November, 1999

Every year on the Sunday before Pentecost the Church celebrates the achievements of the communications media and focuses of how it can best use them to promote gospel values. Patrick Duffy explains what it is and refers to both the achievements and new initiatives of CatholicIreland.net.

What is it?
World Communications Day was established by Pope Paul VI in 1967 as an annual celebration that encourages us to reflect on the opportunities and challenges that the modern means of social communication (the press, motions pictures, radio, television and the internet) afford the Church to communicate the gospel message.

Where did it come from?
The celebration came in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, which realised it must engage fully with the modern world. This realisation is expressed in the opening statement of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes on “The Church in the Modern World”, which says: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anguishes of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anguishes of the followers of Christ as well.”

Why it is celebrated every year?
In setting it up on Sunday 7th May 1967, less than two years after the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI, knowing that the Church is truly and intimately linked with mankind and its history, wanted to draw attention to the communications media and the enormous power they have for cultural transformation.

He and his successors have consistently recognised the positive opportunities the communications media afford for enriching human lives with the values of truth, beauty and goodness, but also the possibly negative effects of spreading less noble values and pressurising minds and consciences with a multiplicity of contradictory appeals.

The communications world: first Areopagus of the modern age
Pope John Paul II (1990) in his encyclical Redemptoris missio 37 said: “The world of communications is the first Areopagus of the modern age, unifying humanity and turning it into what is known as a ‘global village’. The communications media have acquired such importance as to be for many the chief means of information and education, of guidance and inspiration for many people in their personal, family and social behaviour. In particular, the younger generation is growing up in a world conditioned by the mass media.”

Increasingly aware of the world as a global village and the power of the media as a free market place for philosophies and values, the Church has sought to be in there with its message and to use the media to proclaim the values it sees are beneficial for human development and for the eternal welfare of people.

Analysis and action
Two important documents of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications – Communio et Progressio (1971) and Aetatis Novae (1992) have presented an analysis of the world of the communications media and made recommendations for the Church’s action. The Vatican itself has set a headline in updating its use of the full range of the communications media. On a recent visit to Vatican Radio, Pope Benedict was presented with an iPod of the music of Mozart in which he has a particular interest.

The Internet
In 2002, The Pontifical Council for Social Communications produced two documents on the Internet. The first is an analysis of the opportunities and challenges the Internet presents for evangelisation and is entitled The Church and Internet. The other sets out an ethical code which should guide its use and is entitled Ethics in Internet.

This year
Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for World Communications Day this year focuses on children and the media. He urges parents to form their children to be discerning in their use of the media. And those working in the media he urges always to promote human dignity. He askes them to refrain from producing materials that lower moral standards, such as those which promote violence or the trivialisation of sexuality.

Since 2002 j2.catholicireland.net has provided an internet portal website which gathers all the best of Irish Catholic activity with international links. It provides resources online for prayer, reflection and action with sections that include Spirituality, Faith and Justice, Youth Focus and Culture and the Arts. It also provides a daily news service on www.cinews.ie and builds websites for parishes, dioceses and religious groups through www.getonline.ie

New possibilities and initiatives
Speaking at a recent conference, Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick drew attention to the possibilities the new forms of communication open up for the Church not only to “meet the thirst to belong and to believe”, but also for communication within the Church itself by “building a religious identity… through the interactivity the internet offers”.

With the increase of broadband availability, CatholicIreland.net hopes to continue to reach the traditional Catholics who use its services and find new ways to reach the younger audience that may no longer be attending Church or taking part in traditional home or school prayer, extending its services through pod casts, video clips of “good news” stories and initiatives, and live television streaming.

Live television streaming
According to CEO Tony Bolger, a year-long experiment in live broadcasting of services has just been completed  with the Redemptorists of the Clonard Monastery, Belfast on another sister site, www.churchservices.tv.

In June with the canonisation of Blessed Charles of Mount Argus, it will launch a second HD broadcast service from the Passionist Monastery of Mount Argus in Dublin.

The live streaming service will then be offered to all cathedrals and churches who wish to join the network.

A Prayer for Communications Sunday 
O God, whose word is truth
and in whose light we see light,
guide those who tell the story of our times through word and image.
Make them seekers after truth and advocates of human dignity.
Grant discernment to all who rely on their labours,
and, as we confront the pain and promise of this world,
awaken in us a sense of wonder at your presence
and of longing for your peace.

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