Media at the service of the common good
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
On 21st February the Holy Father issued an apostolic letter concerning the means of social communication, entitled 'The rapid development' (in Italian: Il rapido sviluppo). The document was promulgated on the occasion of 40th anniversary of the Decree of the Second Vatican Council Inter Mirifica. As it was stressed in the press conference it was the first document of such importance written by the Pope who used the media so powerfully. We all know very well how important to the world and humanity the communications media are. Their development, variety and power of influence have made our times the epoch of global communication in which people who are devoid of information could not find their way. The apostolic letter speaks about three fundamental options concerning the positive development of the media, namely: a vast work of formation, co-responsible participation in their administration and dialogue at the service of the common good.
Living in Poland, which was under the communist regime for 50 years, we understand well what proper formation means: it is to assure that people working in the media know such values as truth, justice, liberty and responsibility. 'A vast work of formation is needed to assure that the mass media be known and used intelligently and appropriately'. Another concern is co-responsible participation in media administration. We have also got to know what it means to manage the media. We know that there are political forces that want to be close to the media in order to use them for their purposes. The Holy Father stresses the importance of objectivism in the communications media, which are meant to serve the world at large. Therefore, mass media cannot be totally in private hands, in fact, nobody can own the media - naturally in the ideological sense. The communications media are to serve certain values, they are a good destined for all humanity and all media owners must realise the overriding objectives of the media. And the third option - encouragement to dialogue. People should get to know one another, to show solidarity with them and to strive for peace. If the media are badly managed they can become 'a weapon' that can cause destruction, foster injustice and disaster. Thus they should 'tend towards a constructive dialogue', so as to promote man's development, to foster understanding between peoples, and consequently, the unity of all humanity. The Holy Father's document is extremely useful today because unity and understanding among peoples and nations are very important. The communications media 'become a powerful resource for good if used to foster understanding between peoples; a destructive "weapon" if used to foster injustice and conflicts.' And we can often see how people and various circles use mass media to deceive society and achieve their own particularistic interests. The Holy Father says that the communications media are to serve the common good. The communications media, which are tools in man's hands today, are very important to the work of evangelization. The Church willingly employs these media to expand the teaching of Christ almost everywhere. At present we need different tools than we needed before when it was the missionaries who were to go to those countries where people did not know Christ. Naturally, the Church will always need missionaries, need ordinary people, but the media can provide a providential opportunity, inform, proclaim God's truth and support missionary activities.
I am personally glad that John Paul II has addressed the issue, which is so important to us; that he has focused on the moral aspect of the communications media and their role in the development of the human civilization. When the document is translated into Polish, we will popularise it and reflect on its valuable contents.