Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, made that appeal Wednesday in Bangkok at the opening of the World Congress of the International Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP). The event is being in the wake of the four-day World Convention of Young Journalists, which ended Tuesday.
The Geneva-based UCIP brings together journalists, editors and professors of communication who work in all types of media -- members under 35 belong to the International Network of Young Journalists -- offering a forum for professionals of the secular and religious media worldwide.
Founded in December 1927, the UCIP came into being at "a time when Fascism had risen to power in Italy, Communism had seized power in Russia, and when Nazism was ... a growing power in Germany," Archbishop Foley recalled.
The first UCIP World Congress was held in 1930. Since then, it takes place every three years.
In those early years, "intellectual currents in France, Spain and England" were "hardly sympathetic to the Church and there was a pervasive anti-Catholicism in North American society," the U.S.-born archbishop said.
"Is our situation so very different today?" he asked. "We live in environments where either dogmatic secularism or fundamentalist sectarianism is often hostile to the Catholic faith and to the combination of Christian devotion and professional dedication found in Catholic journalists.
"Even within the Church, we can experience an unwillingness to hear bad news -- even when that bad news is, tragically, a self-evident or already much publicized truth."
Thus, "we need a Catholic professional organization which respects and affirms our twofold vocation -- as Catholic Christians and as professional communicators," Archbishop Foley said.
John Paul II sent a message to Bangkok, read by the apostolic nuncio in Thailand, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, in which he called for discernment of the challenges posed by the present culture, especially religious pluralism, in the light of the faith and, in particular, of the Church's social doctrine, Vatican Radio reported.
The topic of the congress, which ends Sunday, is "Media Challenges Amid Cultural and Religious Pluralism: For a New Social Order, Justice and Peace."
At the opening of the congress, after the address of Brazilian journalist and UCIP president Ismar de Oliveira Soares, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra gave the keynote address.
In brief, he explained that religions have the task to make believers better citizens. The believing journalist must not only be distinguished for his professionalism, but must also build bridges between cultures, paying special attention to the poorest in society to build a more fraternal world, he said.
The UCIP congress will also confer its international awards. Among the recipients are Orlando Márquez, director of the Cuban Catholic review Palabra Nueva, and the Russian Catholic weekly Svet Evangelia.