Church's Problems with Media Tied to a Lack of Commitment

Don't Blame Lack of Resources, Say Conferees

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 11, 2002 (Zenit.org).- A key problem in the relation between the Church and the media isn't a lack of means but a lack of commitment, a bishops-sponsored congress concluded.



Dino Boffo, director of the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire, emphasized that point in an address during the closing ceremony of the congress "Media Parables: Creating Culture in the Era of Communication," held at the Vatican.

Addressing some 8,000 media professionals gathered Saturday in Paul VI Hall, Boffo said, "Beginning today, we would like the Italian Church to not be the same anymore. She must be seized by a kind of vertigo to put an end to her timidity and absence, as well as a certain apprehension and arrogance -- offspring, with different manifestations, of the same sense of incapacity, the same fear."

Boffo rebuffed one of the most common excuses for the absence of Catholics in the media: lack of means.

"The problem of the relation between the media and the Church is not resolved by multiplying the instruments, the media, or, with naive impetus, seizing completely the latest instrument to appear," he warned.

"We have abundant means," he said. "It is one of the sectors in which we have received most in the past. However, we must ask ourselves if we have understood the reason why we are present in them."

"We must ask ourselves why, in practice, these instruments are undervalued, why there is a certain skepticism, a certain coldness," and an "inexplicable attitude" of "cultural obstinacy" in many Catholic environments, Boffo continued.

It is "as if independent judgment and professionalism can only be found in principle in publishing businesses that are not our own," he added.

In order to overcome these prejudices and foster awareness, "the whole community must have its own directors of the information culture" so that "a critical, intelligent and adequate judgment of the media" can be promoted among Catholics, Boffo said.

He hinted that the Church has a good chance to do this: "Marketing experts of the sector whisper that if Catholics knew the potential they have, the resource in their network, ... then yes ..."

On Friday the director of La Croix,.a French Catholic newspaper, addressed the congress. Bruno Frappat encouraged Catholic communicators to handle the news with enthusiasm and professionalism.

For Frappat, who worked for France's Le Monde newspaper for 26 years, the Christian journalist faces a dilemma: to believe in the Good News, but to show interest in the bad news.

This requires creativity, responsible freedom and professionalism, Frappat said. The task of Christian media is not to paint a rosy picture of the world but a realistic one, giving the Good News a chance to express itself. This might mean that the journalist is forced to write against the current to be able to inspire hope in others, he said.

"Professionalism, network culture, talent and creativity are absolutely necessary in a Catholic journalist," he emphasized.

A journalist, he added, must have "enthusiasm and passion for the real world, not for a nostalgic world."