Friday, May 30, 2008

From the Rooftops

From Toronto, the Mediafest talk of the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli:
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."
The theme of this year's convention is "Proclaim It From the Rooftops."

...and the first part of that phrase is?