Vatican meeting looks at challenges for Catholic press

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Monday 25, October 2010 | Category:  

In North America and Europe the church has relied for decades on the Catholic press to provide the faithful with news, information, and the perspective they need to understand the church's position on a variety of current political, social, and ethical issues.

But the Catholic press faces the same challenges of falling subscriptions, a drop in ad revenues, and the competition from internet sites that most newspapers are facing. It also faces challenges tied directly to the identity and mission of the Catholic press itself, said Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, at a gathering of Catholic journalists and communications professionals from 85 countries on October 4-7 at the Vatican

Speaking to the meeting, Pope Benedict XVI said that despite the "multiplication of antennas, dishes, and satellites" the printed word is still essential for communication, especially for a church community that draws its inspiration from scripture. "The search for truth must be pursued by Catholic journalists with passionate minds and hearts, but also with the professionalism of competent workers with sufficient and effective instruments," he said.

For Benedict, the job of a journalist is to help people make sense of information and evaluate events in the context of church teaching. The pope said that while new media can help spread information, often they are focused on attention-grabbing images and make little or no attempt to help people understand what is happening or what it means for their lives.

For their part, Catholic journalists, mostly laypeople, said that church officials need to recognize how communications works in the internet age. The World Wide Web, for example, isn't simply an electronic slate where a newspaper can be posted instead of being printed. The internet, especially blogs and social media such as Facebook, have created a new style of communications that is interactive—something most institutional church efforts, from homilies to the Vatican website, have not strongly encouraged.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the almost infinite number of "Catholic" voices in the media today means church officials and Catholic communicators must strengthen their conviction that "for us communications is and must be to promote communion, dialogue, and mutual understanding.”

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