How to speak to young people about the Gospel through the media?
'Who paints the picture for young people? Media, young people's language(s) and handing on the faith- that was the theme of the meeting of ca. 80 bishops, priests and laymen from all over Europe, which took place in Warsaw in September 2005. Archbishop John Patrick Foley, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, participated in the assembly, which was organised by the European Bishops' Media Commission.
Archbishop John P. Foley: - John Paul II had a unique gift of very moving symbolic actions. Once he told me that he did not plan them, they came out spontaneously. He knew the value of symbolic gestures and knew that they could unite people. They spoke to the youth and now we must skilfully use what we have learnt from the Pope. However, symbolic actions must be authentic, any sort of artificiality will discourage the young people.
John Paul II could also reach young people through word and media events, which was evident in the World Youth Days with his participation. Our present Holy Father Benedict XVI understands and appreciates the role of media and knows the influence they can exert on the environment.
During a few days, from 15 till 18 September 2005, clergymen and laymen discussed the role of communications media in proclaiming the Gospel today and their role in upbringing and forming youth's attitudes. 'One cannot speak about new evangelisation without media', thinks Archbishop Slawoj Leszek Glodz, Polish Bishops' Conference's delegate for issues related to the communications media. In his opinion clergymen should not only see 'the fourth power' in press, television and the Internet, but also an instrument to proclaim the Word. 'One should educate professional journalists so that they pass on information concerning the Church and educate the youth to its proper interpretation', stressed Archbishop Glodz. He pointed that although there were many threats related to mass media, they also carried a great chance because of their global character. 'As the Catholic Church is global and universal', he added. Young people and children spend many hours watching television or surfing in the Internet and that's why it would be gross negligence - according to Archbishop Glodz - not to use media for educational and evangelization purposes. 'It need not be a typical Catholic programme on television, radio or a Catholic web page; it is important that there are Christian values in 'secular' media so that we as Christians and Catholics were present and had something to say' he emphasized.
In the opinion of the President of the Council for Social Communications, the fact that the meeting was organised in Warsaw was to appreciate the contacts of the Polish Church with media. In his address during the meeting of the press officers and spokespersons of Europe's bishops' conferences Archbishop Glodz presented the situation of the Catholic media in our country in the background of public and private media. He focused on the Catholic programmes on Polish Television, Channel One, and Programme One of the Polish Radio. He reminded us that Mass had been broadcasted on the radio for 25 years thanks to one of the demands of the Trade Union Solidarity, which was being created in those days. 'All important Church events are reflected in public and private media. Especially the time of the illness, death and funeral of John Paul II was a great examination of maturity and responsibility of the Polish journalists. The Polish Episcopate thanked them for their work. At the same time it was an occasion to make them aware that they should learn, get to know basic terms in order to speak about the events related to the Catholic Church in a language that is easily understood'.
Archbishop Glodz thinks that the meeting of the spokespersons of Europe's bishops' conferences and bishops responsible for media within the framework of their bishops' conferences makes us realise that today pastors and catechists should know that media are necessary instruments in teaching and evangelization. Archbishop Jozef Michalik, President of the Polish Bishops' Conference, also took part in the meeting. He said 'Media are positive instruments to transmit information. They give models for life both to the old and to the young, become a point of reference and school of life'. He added that one should see the treats that media bring. 'We need a critical look at media, which is not devoid of openness to positive aspects', Archbishop Michalik said.
During the meeting in Warsaw the experiences of young Catholics, which use social communications, first of all the electronic media, were presented. The participants could also see Warsaw, get to know the European Centre for Communication and Culture (ECCC), run by the Jesuit community at Falenica on the outskirts of the city, and spent an evening that was full of artistic experiences, prepared by Archbishop Slawoj Leszek Glodz in the basement of St Florian's Cathedral in the Diocese of Warszawa-Praga. At the end of the assembly a press release and final message to European Catholics were prepared.
European Bishops' Media Commission (CEEM) is an agency within the framework of the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE), on which behalf it follows the development of social communications in the context of the Church's tasks and promotes the co-operation of Bishops' Conferences in the scope of media. According to the new statute, accepted at the annual CEEM assembly in Leeds in 2004, members of the Commission act in 5 regional groups: English and Scandinavian, Eastern and Central European, German, French and Mediterranean. CEEM organises a plenary assembly every four years, with the participation of the bishops responsible for media in their countries. The last assembly was held in the Benedictine monastery in Montserrat, Spain, in 2002. The President of the Commission is Bishop Peter Henrici, Switzerland, and the secretary Monsignor Peter Fleetwood from England.