Proclaiming Christ through the media
Rev. Monsignor Ireneusz Skubis talks to Archbishop Marian Golebiewski, Metropolitan of Wroclaw.
Fr Ireneusz Skubis: - Your Excellency, what is the role of Catholic press in pastoral ministry?
Archbishop Marian Golebiewski: - Let us begin this conversation with the fundamental statement that 'faith comes from hearing'. It is the witnesses that play an important role in transmitting faith. In the beginnings of the Church the witnesses were the apostles and disciples of the Lord. Using the language of Saint Paul we can say that they preached a crucified and resurrected Christ who is foolishness to the gentiles and an obstacle to the Jews and for us he is the power of God and the wisdom of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18-24). However, the early Church realised the need to write down what the first witnesses of faith in Christ preached and to preserve Christ's teaching for the Christian communities. The fact of writing down the word of God is regarded as the definite moment in the long process of God's revelation in the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Holy Spirit, who is a warranty of the salvific truth that the Holy Scriptures contains, supported the writing of God's word. Thus the New Testament writings were formed.
In her proclamation of the Gospel, or in evangelisation in general, the Church has used various methods and means throughout ages. When writing was not common in the Middle Ages the Gothic cathedrals used the so-called Bible of the Poor. Sculptures, stained glasses and paintings depicted biblical scenes, illustrating the truths in which Christians believed and according to which they tried to live their lives.
In the modern times a new cultural phenomenon appeared, which can be called the press. In our case we mean the Catholic press. Many modern saints saw and appreciated the role of this means, which was introduced in the sphere of pastoral influence. Today one can hardly imagine a flouring pastoral centre without Catholic press. So what is its role? Speaking briefly, it is an important vector of contemporary evangelisation and at the same time an essential component of the contemporary audio-visual civilisation. Moreover, the role of Catholic press is uniquely significant in the sphere of information, which is a special field of social communications. In the pluralistic society the media give in or adhere to various social, political and ideological fluctuations. The information about the functioning of the Church is, unfortunately, often bias, streaked with sensations and it presents one-sidedly certain phenomena and events in the Church. Catholic press should present as objectively as possible the picture of the Church, in accordance with the official teaching of the Magisterium. The role of Catholic press in this respect cannot be replaced and its tasks are difficult and demanding.
- Can you comment on the statement of the founder of 'Niedziela', the first bishop of Czestochowa Teodor Kubina that 'Niedziela' is to be an additional assistant for the parish priest and an auxiliary to the bishop'?
- I think that this statement is still valid and extremely adequate. We know what is the role of an assistant in the parish and an auxiliary bishop in the diocese. Putting in briefly, the role is to serve, preserving suitable autonomy and invention of these people. This is the way I would see the role of 'Niedziela'; it is to be of service to the institutions of the Church. I do not mean some paeans to the Church or particular hierarchs but I mean deepening religious awareness of the faithful and deeper understanding of adherence to the Church, which is to make continuous efforts to renew human life in the spirit of the Gospel and reform its structures through which the Church fulfils her work of man's salvation. We can hardly imagine that the aim of Catholic press is only to criticise the Church but it would be even harder to accept Catholic press that would not deal with troublesome phenomena and problems that worry and haunt the faithful. In its service Catholic press should face these phenomena and challenges that are not indifferent to the faithful and their pastoral leaders.
- What tasks will the local editorial board, which is run by the priest you have appointed, undertake and what tasks, concerning Catholic press, do priests in the Archdiocese of Wroclaw face?
- In the local dimension the board will undertake problems, which first of all concern the Wroclaw Church. Special attention should be paid to youth ministry. The last events in schools shocked the public opinion in our archdiocese and all over Poland. I mean good discipline in schools, attempts to restore authority to teachers, including those who teach religious instruction, attempts to solve the problem of drugs and absence from lessons, including religious instruction, the problem of aggression, etc. Another field of pastoral ministry of the Church is family. We have been concerned with families in our archdiocese for quite a long time. I think that the editorial board of 'Niedziela Wroclawska' will have to return to these matters many a time and to signal the threats that families face, especially in large cities.
I am glad that 'Niedziela' is ready to enter in a close co-operation with the 'Bible Work', which was officially initiated in our cathedral on 14 October 2006. I think this is a new field of activities both for the local board and the headquarters in Czestochowa. I would expect much bigger involvement of priests and their understanding of the role of Catholic press, naturally including 'Niedziela' and other weeklies, e.g. 'Gosc Niedzielny' [Sunday Visitor], 'Przewodnik Katolicki' [Catholic Guide] or 'Tygodnik Powszechny' [Universal Weekly]. Their tasks are to influence believers' attitudes, to make them aware of Catholic press in Poland, to make them read with understanding and evaluate articles, ask new questions and express their demands, which life requires.
- How would you define pastoral ministry through media?
- I have partially answered your question. Priests must realise that the scope of their activities is limited by the time, abilities, health they have and their rhythm of work, variety of jobs, initiatives, etc. Good Catholic press can supplement certain drawbacks in their pastoral ministries. Let us imagine average believers who listen to the word of God once a week in the liturgy of the Eucharist and in homilies, which translate the word of God into the existential language. This is definitely too little to follow the teaching of the Gospel during the week and to change people's lives under the influence of the Good News. And I can see here a great chance for Catholic press that people read to deepen for example the liturgical readings, to get to know what is going on in the Church in Poland and in the world and to be inspired by the teaching of the Church. The problem is to use this chance and as we know very few people read any papers, including Catholic periodicals. At the same time, one must remember that the press, even the best one, will never replace living witnesses of faith who are priests, parents or neighbours.
- Would you like to present some recommendations for the priests and believers in your diocese as far as the readership of 'Niedziela' in the Archdiocese of Wroclaw is concerned?
- I would like to address an earnest appeal to the priests: encourage your faithful to read Catholic press. You can do that by referring to texts in your speeches, informing about good and interesting articles as well as other texts concerning important matters that are happening in the Catholic Church, discussing certain articles that can arouse doubts or misunderstanding in prayer groups and Catholic associations. The readership of 'Niedziela' depends on the quality of the weekly to a large extent as well as on the activities of priests and their abilities to convince believers. I also encourage priests to try their literary talents, dealing with issues that are of interest to the faithful.
I want to make a sincere appeal to the believers in my diocese: read 'Niedziela' and Catholic press in general, deepen the truths of the faith by reading suitable articles. In the period of the Polish People's Republic we longed for free press. Then there was merciless censorship that selected news concerning religious life and activities of the Church. The situation has changed diametrically. Currently, we have free press; we can speak and write in a free way. The matter is that we should not be indifferent to these benefits, which we fought for so fervently.
I want to congratulate to the editorial board of 'Niedziela' on the recent change of the format and contents of the weekly. I would like to wish you that every new issue of 'Niedziela' was a wonderful surprise for us, that it brought new ways and approaches to the old, but always important Truth, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.