The Catholic Press Association (CPA) was founded over one hundred years ago in the United States with the aim of “serving and uniting” it’s members. It has nearly 225 publication members and 600 individual members in the association.
But this year, for the first time in its long history, the association will be holding a virtual Catholic Media Conference, due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
With the pandemic in mind, Pope Francis began his message to the conference by expressing his closeness “to those who have been affected by the virus and to those who, even at the risk of their lives, have worked and continue to work in assisting our brothers and sisters in need.”
A timely theme
The theme chosen for this virtual event is “Together While Apart.” The Pope noted how this theme “eloquently expresses the sense of togetherness that emerged, paradoxically, from the experience of social distancing imposed by the pandemic.”
Pope Francis also underlined how “the experience of these past months has shown how essential is the mission of the communications media for bringing people together, shortening distances, providing necessary information, and opening minds and hearts to truth.”
“E pluribus unum – the ideal of unity amid diversity, reflected in the motto of the United States”, noted the Pope, “must also inspire the service you offer to the common good. How urgently is this needed today, in an age marked by conflicts and polarization from which the Catholic community itself is not immune.”
“We need media capable of building bridges, defending life and breaking down the walls, visible and invisible, that prevent sincere dialogue and truthful communication between individuals and communities, he said.”
“We need media”, he continued, “that can help people, especially the young, to distinguish good from evil, to develop sound judgments based on a clear and unbiased presentation of the facts, and to understand the importance of working for justice, social concord and respect for our common home.” The Pope also stressed the need for men and women of conviction “who protect communication from all that would distort it or bend it to other purposes.”
As Christians, he emphasized, “each of us, wherever we find ourselves, is called to contribute, through our profession of truth in love, to the Church’s growth to full maturity in Christ.”
“Communication, we know, is not merely a matter of professional competence”, said the Pope.
Being a true communicator
“A true communicator”, he went on to say, “dedicates himself or herself completely to the welfare of the others, at every level, from the life of each individual to the life of the entire human family.”
Pope Francis pointed out that, “we cannot truly communicate unless we become personally involved, unless we can personally attest to the truth of the message we convey.” All communication, he said, “has its ultimate source in the life of the triune God, who shares with us the richness of His divine life and calls us, in turn, to communicate that treasure to others by our unity in the service of His truth.”
Gaze of the Holy Spirit
Invoking an outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s gifts of wisdom, understanding and good counsel on their work, the Pope noted that “only the gaze of the Spirit allows us not to close our eyes to those who suffer and to seek the true good of all. Only with that gaze can we effectively work to overcome the diseases of racism, injustice and indifference that disfigure the face of our common family.”
Speak with nouns not adjectives
Concluding his message to the conference, Pope Francis urged Christian communicators to “speak with nouns that acknowledge and advance the quiet claims of truth and promote human dignity,” in a world that all too readily “speaks with adjectives and adverbs.”
“Where the world sees conflicts and divisions, may you look to the suffering and the poor, and give voice to the plea of our brothers and sisters in need of mercy and understanding”, he said.
Among the keynote speakers at this year’s Catholic Media Conference will be Dr. Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication. The virtual gathering runs from the 30 June to 2 July.