VATICAN CITY, MARCH 16, 2009 (Zenit.org).- It's been 17 years since the last pastoral instruction on the means of communication, and it's time for an update, according to Benedict XVI's secretary of state.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said this Friday when he addressed 82 bishops gathered in Rome last week to discuss the preparation of a Vatican document on media and the Church.
The Pontifical Council for Social Communications organized the meeting under the theme "New Prospects for Ecclesial Communication."
Cardinal Bertone spoke to the gathering a day after the Vatican published a letter from the Pope to the bishops of the world, in which the Pontiff considered the situation with the Society of St. Pius X.
In the letter, the Holy Father acknowledged that January's lifting of the 1988 excommunication of the four Society prelates caused a "discussion more heated than any we have seen for a long time," and that the situation could have been avoided if the Vatican had paid more attention to the Internet as a source of information.
Referring to the scandal caused by bishop Richard Williamson, who appeared on Swedish television denying the extent of the Holocaust days before the decree was made public, the Pope wrote: "I have been told that attentive following of the news accessible on Internet would have given the possibility of timely awareness of the problem. From it I draw the lesson that, in the future, we in the Holy See will have to pay more attention to this source of news."
Cardinal Bertone told the bishops that a new document of pastoral guidance for the Church's communicative commitment is necessary, as the last document of these characteristics -- "Aetatis Novae" -- was issued in 1992.
"The 17 years that have passed represent a very long parenthesis for the rate of development and growth of the media: It is the period in which a series of small and great revolutions have matured that, as a constant current, have radically transformed the pre-existing scene," said Cardinal Bertone.
The cardinal pointed out that the final message of the synod of bishops on the Word of God, held last October in the Vatican, it was noted that "the voice of the Divine Word must also resonate through radio, Internet's information arteries, online, on air, CDs, DVDs, podcasts, etc.; it must appear on television and film screens, in the press, and in cultural and social events."
In the last session of the seminar, the bishops' working groups presented proposals for the preparation of a draft of the future document.
Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told the bishops that the dicastery will now begin to edit the proposals in order to present a first draft in the second half of October.
Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, added that it would be a "living document, adapted to the present but with its sights set on the future."
Even in the writing of the document, the bishops participating in the meeting, from various parts of the world, will use the new technologies to make it a collaborative effort.
Both the bishops as well as the council's representatives believe that the document must have the contribution of young people, "digital natives" -- those who have grown up using the new technologies, some of whom participated in the seminar.