CATHOLIC SOLIDARITY IS OUR TASK
Fr. Ireneusz Skubiś talks with archbishop Wacław Depo - the metropolitan of Częstochowa, the chairman of the Council for Mass Media of the Polish Episcopal Conference
FR. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ: – On 24 January there is a reminiscence of St. Francis de Sales, a patron of journalists and people of media. This is an occasion to address one’s prayer to the saint patron of our work done for years…
ARCHBISHOP WACŁAW DEPO: – Saint people, like Francis de Sales, are similar to stars which are difficult to reach but which show a road in the darkness. Formation of human consciences through passing the truth to others, not only selected information and opinions, is a road given to us as a task and I am very glad that on the occasion of the feast of St. Francis de Sales we can unite together at a prayer and in the sense of responsibility for who we are for the others.
– Why did the Church consider St. Francis de Sales as a patron suitable for the journalistic world?
– St . Francis was proclaimed a patron of Catholic journalists and writers by pope Pius XI in 1923. Undoubtedly, these were a kind of challenges which the Church was facing at that time, but here the significant matter was earlier proclamation of St. Francis de Sales a doctor of the Church. A Doctor of the Church is somebody who through his teaching and charismas – received not for himself but for others –has an influence on people. Writing and preaching activity of St. Francis de Sales, whose purpose is defend the truths of the Church and its unity, are fundaments which make him somebody who is very current today.
I will recall my personal experience here, connected with St. Francis de Sales. Once, while I was reading one of his letters, I noticed these words: Even if you were over the moon at a prayer, and somebody asked you for a glass of water, then come down from high and give it to him. Here we just have a matter of forming a conscience and a kind of making somebody sensitive to the fact that God’s love is connected with a particular mission towards another man; that it is not one of the mottos but a particular way of solving people’s problems. This saint suggests it to us.
– How can a Catholic journalist celebrate the feast of his patron?
– I will use the fact again, and also a gift, which the Church received in the form of the II Vatican Council. It mainly emphasized that acting of the Holy Spirit in the Church.- Discovering the role of the Holy Spirit in the contemporary world is not only a task of hierarchs and priests or people of consecrated life, but also of laymen. A prayer to the Holy Spirit should be an everyday prayer of everybody who becomes a mature journalist and a responsible man serving to the truth. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we will not recognize various dangers and spirits which are going around us. This recognition will help us later in passing the truth which is not easy at all, because it obliges. Whereas, today the political correctness or any kind of manipulations are something so universal that people already know who tells the truth and whom we should believe in, whom we should follow. So on such days as the feast of the patron of media people, a Catholic journalist should ask for needed gifts of the Holy Spirit through his intercession.
– Why do journalists working in secular media need these gifts so much?
– Because there are not many truths, although we have become used to publicistic statements today, that everybody has his own truth and in the name of freedom they can popularize it. No! Freedom must be built on the objective truth, otherwise it will be a lies ideology which is a threat for a particular man and for the whole mankind.
– What should political correctness be like?
– Every politician is obliged first to get to know and understand the reality – in the name of responsibility and the common welfare of the nation. Recognizing the truth about the reality cannot be separated from this welfare – it should be strictly connected with it. If it does not appear in the action of a politician, then he is an ordinary political player, not a man serving to his own nation, a statesman like God’s servant cardinal Stefan Wyszyński. Because the statesman also thinks about future generations, and a political player thinks about coming elections. We should not agree on this kind of political correctness which is connected only with a specific electoral success.
– Let’s talk about people working in Catholic media. Today we have many press titles – journals, weeklies, monthlies, quarterlies and parish magazines in many circulations, radio and television stations. What should be the basic matter for people working in media?
– First, I will emphasize the basic matter in priestly vocation. Well, the first task of a priest is proclaiming the Gospel, next we reach the mystery o holy sacraments through faith, and in the third place there is a kind of responsibility for creating a community. Something from the priestly task to which blessed John Paul II drew attention, is present in the ministry of a Catholic journalist. First of all, recognizing the truth of the Gospel, he must be faithful to it. However recognition is not enough, it must be based on holy sacraments. Every journalist, like each of us, priests, is obliged, among the others, to examination of conscience and to use the sacrament of penance. There cannot be a Catholic journalist who will not move to a sacramental relation, which is a sacrament of penance, from recognition of the truth and possible defects, and from here he has a simple road to the sacrament of Eucharist from which he will get spiritual strength to counteract trends contradictory with the Gospel and the Church. Only when one has this fundament, and the very strong one, it is possible to speak about a possibility of forming those who use these mass media. A Catholic journalist is responsible for what he passes to others and with what he lives.
– Archbishop is the chairman of the Council for Mass Media of the Polish Episcopal Conference. What to do to make Catholic journalism: press, radio, television, and this youngest one – electronic a solidary reality?
– The role of the chairman of the Council for Mass Media is coordinating on the line of Episcopate. For, it is difficult to influence particular editorial offices which function in various places and in various ways. But guarding some boundaries of this and that mass media is surely my task. Therefore I am glad that, for example, at meetings during a year we pay attention to what is a brightness and a shadow of these media. As, we should not deceive ourselves that despite a variety of Catholic publishing houses, books and magazines, independent Catholic radio stations in a number of some twenty on the area of our homeland - also outside its boundaries, like the Radio Maria – we are still a kind of a minority against an enormous number of public and commercial media, quite helpless towards many attacks on the Church. Recently deceased cardinal Stanisław Nagy, who once was speaking about it, noted that the difference among us is like between an elephant and an ant – those mass media are sometimes devastating in a sense of everyday attack or preparation of some thought actions against the transmission of our radio and television stations and our magazines. Therefore, my role as a chairman of the Council for Mass Media of the Polish Episcopal Conference is guard the unity, as I emphasize: complementarity of our transmission, but not permit for competitiveness onto which media opposing to the Gospel and the Church are trying to push us.
– So, should we follow the rule of the Catholic solidarity….
– Yes, this solidarity is a kind of our task: help one another, not oppose one another.
– Does Excellency think it would be necessary to strengthen the cooperation between radio and press journalists?
– Certainly, it would. Here I would like to note that particular editorial offices should not create a courtyard of a particular bishop, but they should be complementary with his speeches. If a pastor of the Church expresses his opinion on something, we should look for a journalistic complementation of this issue, considering formation of a recipient. We should not repeat the same because recipients get bored and will tend to look for other sources of information, risking being exposed to manipulation. An example here is what we, bishops, speak about the gender ideology – we must speak in one voice, in various ways, showing dangerous trends for our future life.
– Archbishop undertook some attempts of uniting Catholic radio stations…
– I am very glad that first bishops, and later journalists responded to my requests to organize this meeting. Last year there had already been such journalistic meetings concerning cooperation and there were also meetings of retreat, prayer so that journalists would feel the unity of the issue to which they devote themselves. Today this cooperation of over 20 radio stations, the Vatican radio station, the Zenit agency – including the Vatican centre of passing the truth – are already a fact and I think that this is a wonderful gift for the Holy Father blessed John Paul II.
– Today we have the opinion-making Catholic press which is respected in the media arena, as well as radio stations, television, but it seems that believers have not been prepared yet – including priests – to use these media, they are not used to but a Catholic newspaper every week or listen to Catholic radio stations. Does Excellency see any needs of a catechesis for believers on this issue, or maybe a pastoral letter about the necessity of using Catholic media in our everyday life?
– This is still current task which should start at home, family community supported by a parish community which reminds about the possibility of using this or another Catholic newspaper, Catholic radio station or Catholic television station. For, everyday bombarding us with information flowing from everywhere, where we are, not always makes us filled with content which is more valuable and demanding. We often absorb what is light and pleasant, for example, so many of us watch entertainment programmes which are like Olympic games of bad humour and they mock at basic values such as: family, respect, truth and they are trying to educate people through a lie and slandering propaganda. To what? – to satisfy one’s own needs of the body and entertainment. Here we must ask ourselves the question, which is the examination of conscience: Am I a reader of at least one Catholic newspaper every week from Sunday to Sunday, against these aggressive actions, will I read a good article at this time which would make me help realize the truth and become obliged to something? Yes, both priests and families should be engaged in passing the truth of the Christian faith in a more responsible way.
Therefore, I will suggest that the Episcopate should encourage and oblige believers to be responsible for what they choose in media, what is their everyday media food: that they should make the examination of conscience of it. We will try to prepare such letters in a positive form, not a kind of criticism.
– What does Excellency think about priests conducting retreats in the Lent; shouldn’t they give at least one conference to their listeners on Catholic media? Shouldn’t the retreat fruit in a bigger group of recipients who would be interested in, for example, ‘Niedziela’ on a permanent basis?
– This is not only a need but necessity that priests conducting retreat and catechists should oblige adults and young people to read a Catholic newspaper at least once a week. Because this is a kind of clean air with which a believer should breathe. A Catholic newspaper will not lead him towards falsehood or hypocrisy. Therefore we should include the matter of responsibility for using Catholic mass media in the criteria of the conscience, and speaking straightforward – we should include it in our confession. Today it seems necessary, otherwise we will not resist the onset of manipulation and falsehoods.
– How does Archbishop perceive the state of the Catholic radio, press and television journalism?
– This is an enormous clash of one world with another. Please note that for some time there have been attacks on what we call a historic memory, that is, awareness of who we are and what people we should be, as well as responsibility or educating the youngest. I think that this confrontation is so severe today that we trustfully must ask God for help. Without unity or solidarity of Catholic mass media we will not change the image of this earth. And the change results from the truth about ourselves and the reality which we are currently experiencing. No matter if it will be an issue about family, educating children and the youth, or dangers which are lurking for us, not saying about financial, economic matters or issues which touch us and are painful for us- like, for example, the issue of State Forests which turn out to be an attractive target for those who want to continue on reselling our national heritage – this all must be enlightened with the truth. Therefore, let’s trustfully ask God, through the intercession of Mary who is an extraordinary help for us, so that we would have enough strength to resist dangers and remain faithful to the heritage which we received.
– Is the widely-understood rightist press in Poland able to rebuild the national awareness, which would influence politics, elections for parliament, morals of a believer?
– Here we return to the issue of unity and solidarity of Catholic mass media against what is systematically elaborated. Because Poland – I see it more clearly – becomes a kind of experimental place of change in people’s mentality. Therefore, it is good that Poles, as we see it in the rightist press, start waking up from the point of view of the truth, conscience and they do not allow for concealing the most important issues, but they come out into streets, either when organizing a pro-life march, or a march supporting the Television Trwam on the multiplex, or other marches. Also the procession of the Three Kings, organized in so many cities in Poland showed that also a great religious show can bring such important current content. In Częstochowa the procession started with a prayer in the cathedral and later it went to Jasna Góra, on a permanent route of pilgrims, showing that we know with Whom and to Whom we are going. And I wish we had such initiatives both the Catholic ones and the national ones as many as possible.
– Here I touch on an important issue – broadcasting of the Television Trwam. If nothing changes, from 15 February 2014 we will have it on the digital multiplex….
– I will thank God for regaining freedom, with believers who already watch this station. I deliberately emphasize the word ‘freedom’ because I will finally be able to believe that there is media freedom, when I will be able to turn on the station with one decision and watch its informative or prayer, formative or publicistic program. The strong point of the Television Trwam is the fact that its broadcasting is connected with the apostolic activity of the Holy Father or with many events in the Church and it is incomparable with any other television station. Now its broadcasting will be accessible for every man of good will, also the one who is still on the verge of the Church today or is even its opponent. So, I will thank God for the accessibility of this television according to our personal choice.
– So, we should pray to our saint patron for help both in these particular problems and for the light in searching for the truth…
– I encourage and oblige all journalists to pray trustfully on the patron’s days and also – quoting the words of the pope Benedict XVI – I want to assure everybody who is a ‘Cooperator of the Truth’ about my prayer, so that their ministry would not be a burden but joy and satisfaction.