Archbishop Migliore on Media, Truth and Peace

Interview with Vatican Observer to the U.N.

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NEW YORK, JULY 23, 2006 ( The media has a role in alleviating situations of conflict, says the Holy See's permanent observer to the United Nations.

In this interview with ZENIT, Archbishop Celestino Migliore comments on the essential task of the media in the search for truth and justice.

Q: Are you optimistic about Catholics involved in promoting peace and understanding?

Archbishop Migliore: A simple glance at Christian history motivates and sustains this optimism.

Everything begins with what have come to be called the seven works of mercy that schematically outline, if one can use that expression, the message of the Gospel.

From those lived experiences of the works of mercy is born the structure of modern states that deals with education, health, human security and food security, and respect for the fundamental rights of every citizen.

The Geneva Conventions and the recent resolutions of the United Nations concerning the legality and the legitimacy of the use of force, trace back in detail the theological-juridical reflection begun by St. Augustine that has come down to our day in the universal Catechism.

We cannot hide the warning given by Jesus in the Gospel: "The love of most will grow cold" (Matthew 24:12), which has come to pass in history and at times has had devastating effects.

We find ourselves between the already and the not yet: The already is all the weight of our human nature and the sins of many of our individual and communitarian behaviors; but the substance and beauty of the not yet, that is, of the realization of the message of peace given to us by Jesus, is becoming more evident.

Benedict XVI wanted to affirm this with force in his very first homily when he greeted us with the vibrant conviction: The Church is alive!

Q: How do you envisage the media's role in promoting peace?

Archbishop Migliore: In the last 100 years, the media have assumed a growing role to the point of claiming authority on questions of war and peace. Their extraordinary impact on public opinion depends on the precise attitude and will assumed by those who control the mass media.

In many cases, even recently, we have witnessed information capable of fomenting a true culture of peace, of solidarity, of peaceful and constructive coexistence; in other cases, more frequent and striking, we noticed a true campaign of misinformation put at the service of division and hatred among ethnic groups, culture and religions.

Even in this sector, it is not only a question of those issuing the broadcasts, but also those receiving. When the conscience of the "receiver" is clouded, distracted, uncritical, or directly ordered toward division more than toward harmony, it is that same public opinion that becomes accomplice, at times, to the monstrous, insinuating distortions of the media.

The recent commemoration of "Pacem in Terris" has brought to light that even for the media, whether transmitting or in receiving, the service to peace rests on four pillars: truth, justice, love and freedom.

Q: Do you think we live in a moment where "truth" is only one thing among others?

Archbishop Migliore: In his first message for the World Day of Peace, Benedict XVI spent some time on two concepts: peace and truth, dedicating a magisterial paragraph on the relationship between untruth/truth in history.

He wrote: "Who and what, then, can prevent the coming of peace? Sacred Scripture, in its very first book, Genesis, points to the lie told at the very beginning of history by the animal with a forked tongue, whom the evangelist John calls ''the father of lies'' (John 8:44).

Lying is also one of the sins spoken of in the final chapter of the last book of the Bible, Revelation, which bars liars from the heavenly Jerusalem: ''Outside are... all who love falsehood'' (22:15).

Lying is linked to the tragedy of sin and its perverse consequences, which have had, and continue to have, devastating effects on the lives of individuals and nations.

We need but think of the events of the past century, when aberrant ideological and political systems willfully twisted the truth and brought about the exploitation and murder of an appalling number of men and women, wiping out entire families and communities.

After experiences like these, how can we fail to be seriously concerned about lies in our own time, lies which are the framework for menacing scenarios of death in many parts of the world.

Any authentic search for peace must begin with the realization that the problem of truth and untruth is the concern of every man and woman; it is decisive for the peaceful future of our planet.

Q: Which is the "Catholic view" of dialogue, and why is it crucial for believers?

Archbishop Migliore: In speaking of "Catholic" view, there is nothing more direct than to revisit the thought of the Pope, particularly as expressed in Cologne, when in August 2005, he met with some leaders of the Islamic community.

Benedict XVI affirmed that religions are called to create, support and promote the precondition of every encounter, every dialogue, and of every understanding of pluralism and cultural difference. That precondition is the dignity of the human person.

Our common human dignity is a true precondition because it comes before every other consideration or methodological principle, even those of international law.

We see it in the "Golden Rule," found throughout the religions of the world. Another description of this concept is reciprocity.

Encouraging awareness and experience of this common heritage within and among religions will surely help in the translation of this positive vision into political and social categories which will, in their turn, inform the juridical categories underlying the national and international relations.