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The President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication brings greeting to Catholic Media Convention

Matthew Harrison

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Though the attendees are predominantly from North America, there's a number of representatives from the Vatican, one of them is the President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication, Archbishop Claudio Celli.
Archbishop Celli brought with him to Toronto greetings from Pope Benedict XVI, who hoped the conference "will be a fruitful time of spiritual growth and professional development."
He also spoke at the opening of the Convention on Wednesday. Here is his address:
Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, My Dear Friends in Christ,
It is truly an honor and a pleasure for me to be here with you today and to be able to greet you, my fellow Catholic communicators, from across North America.
It is a providential occasion for us to meet and especially for me to become more familiar with your work, your ideas and hopes for the future. I am sure that we can find new ways to learn from and support one another in our common mission of evangelization through the communications media, and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ from the rooftops.
At the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, we are aware that the real work of communications happens through organizations such as yours and through the outreach of your members to so many parts of the world. Thank you for all that you do.
I would like to thank the organizers for inviting me to be here and to offer these opening words. I recall meeting many of you back in November when you traveled to Rome for the consistory, which saw the elevation to the Cardinalate of John P. Foley, my distinguished predecessor, who is here with us and whom I greet with esteem and fraternal affection.
The overall theme guiding this meeting -- "Proclaim it From the Rooftops" -- underscores what our work is all about. We proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, hope and salvation for all humanity. And we do so in different ways -- through our personal witness as believers and through our work in the communications media.
Today, we are faced with unprecedented challenges, as well as marvelous possibilities, magnified by the rapid development of technological innovation revolutionizing communication in all its different forms. The cultural changes which have resulted from these developments require deep reflection and innovative thinking so that we can better reach out to others and better communicate the Good News to all humanity -- whether practicing Catholics or nonbelievers, whether in religious or overwhelmingly secular contexts.
Our message is always the same -- Jesus of Nazareth must always be at the heart of our proclamation -- but how we present him to a changing world and how we communicate his message needs to be continually reformulated and adapted to the moment and the context.
Seven years ago, the Holy Father, John Paul II, issued a message for World Communications Day on the theme: "Preach From the Housetops: The Gospel in the Age of Global Communication." In it, he notes: "In all cultures and at all times -- certainly in the midst of today's global transformations -- people ask the same basic questions about the meaning of life: Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life?
"And in every age the Church offers the one ultimately satisfying answer to the deepest questions of the human heart -- Jesus Christ himself, 'who fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his high calling.' Therefore, the voice of Christians can never fall silent, for the Lord has entrusted to us the word of salvation for which every human heart longs. The Gospel offers the pearl of great price for which all are searching."
It is clear then, that the Church must use all the resources at its disposal and in the best ways possible to reach out to all people through the communications media, and especially to those searching for meaning. At the same time, we must never lose sight of the importance of the witness of personal example and one to one communication.
In the Acts of the Apostles, there is the account of the Deacon Philip who asked the Ethiopian he met on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza: "Do you understand what you are reading?" And the Ethiopian answered him: "How can I, unless someone guides me?" Philip then spoke about Jesus in response to his questions about the messianic Lamb, as announced in the prophet Isaiah's words he was reading.
In the same way, we in the Catholic media should be ready and available to accompany others searching for meaning on their journey in life, and in this way proclaim to them the Good News of Jesus. It is a call to service and to dialogue with the culture in which we find ourselves.
In that passage in the Acts of the Apostles, we also read that the road from Jerusalem to Gaza was a desert route. I think the image of the desert is a powerful metaphor for the emptiness people may feel in their own lives at times, or for the cultural environments in which they live. I would hope that in our own media work and our interpersonal encounters, we can help quench the thirst for meaning in these deserts by being attentive to others and by our willingness to be at the service of culture, leading to the discovery of the salvation that comes to us from Christ.
I am convinced that within the human heart there is a deep yearning for God -- something I like to call a "nostalgia for God." I spoke about this recently at a meeting of European media and public relations experts where I was invited to speak about religion and communication.
I noted that: This feeling is most immediately felt when the human subject confronts the reality of his or her own solitude. It is in moments of solitude that the individual is unable to avoid a consideration of the ultimate questions concerning life and death and the point and purpose of his or her personal existence. It is perhaps for this very reason that so many humans seek to avoid such moments of solitude and are tempted to lose themselves in the world of constant communications and perpetual "busy-ness."
The question that the individual confronts in the depths of his or her own solitude is a question about the very essence of their own existence. In the final analysis, the individual is confronting a question that is not merely the product of his or her own reflection but one that issues from beyond the existence of any one individual. It is this very question that mysteriously grounds the being of the individual.
If we are not attentive to this dimension of human existence, if we are deaf to the echo of the question which reveals itself in a desire for a destiny that can shape human life, we can never establish an authentic human relationship. True communications between humans -- and it is precisely as communicators that we come together -- demands an openness to this basic yearning.
I would like to conclude with words of Pope Benedict XVI in his message for this year's World Communications Day: "Let us ask the Holy Spirit to raise up courageous communicators and authentic witnesses to the truth, faithful to Christ's mandate and enthusiastic for the message of the faith, communicators who will interpret modern cultural needs, committing themselves to approaching the communications age not as a time of alienation and confusion, but as a valuable time for the quest for the truth and for developing communion between persons and peoples."

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