In the letter, made public today, the Pope says that ecclesial dynamism in the "global village" depends on this revision. The media, he observed, can be used "to proclaim the Gospel or to reduce it to silence within men's hearts."
The document, entitled "The Rapid Development," is addressed in particular to those in charge of social communications. Its themes recall those of the Second Vatican Council decree "Inter Mirifica."
"The current phenomenon of communications impels the Church towards a sort of pastoral and cultural revision, so as to deal adequately with the times in which we live," states the Pope.
"The Church is not only called upon to use the mass media to spread the Gospel but, today more than ever, to integrate the message of salvation into the 'new culture' that these powerful means of communication create and amplify," he explains.
"Pastors, above all, must assume this responsibility. Everything possible must be done so that the Gospel might permeate society, stimulating people to listen to and embrace its message," writes the Pontiff.
The exhortation is also addressed to "consecrated persons belonging to institutions which, having the charism of using the mass media, have a particular responsibility in this regard. Spiritually and professionally formed towards this end, these institutions 'should willingly lend their help, wherever pastorally appropriate [...] in order to offset the inappropriate use of the media and to promote higher quality programs, the contents of which will be respectful of the moral law and rich in human and Christian values.'"
"The appreciation of the media is not reserved only to those already adept in the field, but to the entire Church community," the Holy Father writes. "If, as has already been noted, the communications media take into account different aspects of the expression of faith, Christians must take into account the media culture in which they live."
John Paul II adds that "those individuals in the Church community particularly gifted with talent to work in the media, should be encouraged with pastoral prudence and wisdom, so that they may become professionals capable of dialoguing with the vast world of the mass media."
"In the same way, it is important to assure that media professionals receive the necessary formation and pastoral attention to confront the particular tensions and ethical dilemmas that arise in their daily work," he writes. "Often these men and women 'sincerely desire to know and practice what is ethically and morally just,' and look to the Church for guidance and support.
"Such is the importance of the mass media that, fifteen years ago, I considered it inopportune to leave their use completely up to the initiatives of individuals or small groups, and suggested that they be decisively inserted into pastoral programs."