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SPECIAL: Apostolic Letter on the Media

2/22/2005 - 6:00 AM PST

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John Paul II's "Rapid Development"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 22, 2005 - Here is the text of John Paul II's new apostolic letter on the media, "The Rapid Development," published today by the Holy See.

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APOSTOLIC LETTER
THE RAPID DEVELOPMENT
OF THE HOLY FATHER
JOHN PAUL II
TO THOSE RESPONSIBLE
FOR COMMUNICATIONS

1. The rapid development of technology in the area of the media is surely one of the signs of progress in today's society. In view of these innovations in continuous evolution, the words found in the Decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, "Inter Mirifica," promulgated by my venerable predecessor, the servant of God Paul VI, December 4, 1963, appear even more pertinent: "Man's genius has with God's help produced marvelous technical inventions from creation, especially in our times. The Church, our mother, is particularly interested in those which directly touch man's spirit and which have opened up new avenues of easy communication of all kinds of news, of ideas and orientations."[1]

I. Fruitful Progress in the Wake of the Decree "Inter Mirifica"

2. More than forty years after the publication of that document, it appears appropriate to reflect on the "challenges" which the communications media constitute for the Church, which Paul VI said "would feel guilty before the Lord if she did not utilize these powerful means."[2] In fact, 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. It tells us that the use of the techniques and the technologies of contemporary communications is an integral part of its mission in the third millennium.

Moved by this awareness, the Christian community has taken significant steps in the use of the means of communication for religious information, for evangelization and catechesis, for the formation of pastoral workers in this area, and for the education to a mature responsibility of the users and the recipients of the various communications media.

3. Many challenges face the new evangelization in a world rich with communicative potential like our own. Because of this, I wanted to underline in the Encyclical "Redemptoris Missio" that the first Areopagus of modern times is the world of communications, which is capable of unifying humanity and transforming it into -- as it is commonly referred to -- "a global village." The communications media have acquired such importance as to be the principal means of guidance and inspiration for many people in their personal, familial, and social behavior. We are dealing with a complex problem, because the culture itself, prescinding from its content, arises from the very existence of new ways to communicate with hitherto unknown techniques and vocabulary.

Ours is an age of global communication in which countless moments of human existence are either spent with, or at least confronted by, the different processes of the mass media. I limit myself to mentioning the formation of personality and conscience, the interpretation and structuring of affective relationships, the coming together of the educative and formative phases, the elaboration and diffusion of cultural phenomena, and the development of social, political and economic life.

The mass media can and must promote justice and solidarity according to an organic and correct vision of human development, by reporting events accurately and truthfully, analyzing situations and problems completely, and providing a forum for different opinions. An authentically ethical approach to using the powerful communication media must be situated within the context of a mature exercise of freedom and responsibility, founded upon the supreme criteria of truth and justice.

II. Gospel Reflection and Missionary Commitment

4. The world of mass media also has need of Christ's redemption. To analyze with the eyes of faith the processes and value of communications, the deeper appreciation of Sacred Scripture can undoubtedly help as a "great code" of communication of a message which is not ephemeral, but fundamental for its saving value.

Salvation History recounts and documents the communication of God with man, a communication which uses all forms and ways of communicating. The human being is created in the image and likeness of God in order to embrace divine revelation and to enter into loving dialogue with Him. Because of sin, this capacity for dialogue at both the personal and social level has been altered, and humanity has had to suffer, and will continue to suffer, the bitter experience of incomprehension and separation. God, however, did not abandon the human race, but sent his own Son (Cf. Mk 12:1-11). In the ...

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