Andrea Tornielli addressed int'l conference on role of media in defending the truth

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Andrea Tornielli addressed int'l conference on role of media in defending the truth

Amman-en.abouna.org

Following is the text of the address by Mr. Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications, during the first session of the international conference titled, "Media and their role in defending the truth" which was held at Le Royal Hotel in Amman on June 18-19, 2019 under the patronage of Minister of State for Media Affairs Ms. Jumana Ghnaimat:

Excellences, Dear friends

1. We are living in a mediatic world. We are well informed in every moment of our daily life, the news is available in our smartphones in real time: information, pictures, videos. No generation was ever more informed than ours (today we receive in one day more information than was received two generations ago in an entire lifetime).

But, please, allow me to ask you a simple question. Do you really think that we are well informed? Is this really the best possible media system? Is this incredible amount of information really the best way for being well informed? To me it’s clear that the answer is NO.

I am not telling you that I am “nostalgic” of the time without social media and the web. Not at all! I am simply trying to say that quantity of information does not necessarily mean quality of information. In fact, we are living in a time in which the worst manipulation of information has become easier: fake news, manipulated news, manipulated contexts.

The social media system is obviously an instrument: you can use it well, for the truth, to share good information and well-founded news. Or you can use it badly, that is to increase confusion, to spread hate, to manipulate people’s minds. You can use it to share complete information which can build bridges and dialogue between people, or you can use it to increase divisions, wars, opposition between us.

Unfortunately, as you know, the media system tends to highlight bad news rather than good ones. If there is a man, shouting words from a specific religion, with a knife in his hand, screaming at people in the streets of a European capital, this becomes world news in a few minutes. If there are thousands and thousands of Christian and Muslim families living next to each other, helping each other and protecting each other, this is not news, even if you could say that this is the real news today.

The governments, the states, the big corporations are aware of that: they often use the media for their ends. When you are talking about information and the media, remember that you are always talking about choices. Every day there are a lot of choices made by the media professionals, who are deciding which news should be published and highlighted, and which shouldn’t.

The first choice is made by the news agencies: they are choosing which stories should be published. The websites and newspapers every minute of the day are making other choices. The TV and radio other ones. Today the social media could help people to understand and get access to news and facts that are not included in the daily choices made by the professional media system.

Beyond those choices, there is our real world: that is, not only the forgotten wars around the world, the forgotten suffering of a lot of people hurt by violence, discrimination, or lack of food and water, but also a lot of good stories that every day - thank God - are happening in every corner of our World.

2. How is the Catholic Church living and acting in this mediatic world? It is difficult to answer. Sometimes the Church “falls in love” with ideas or systems a little bit late, when those ideas or systems are already starting to show their flaws. This happened, for example, in the case of Marxism. Now, in my opinion, the same is happening with social media and digital instruments.

I think there is a big risk: the risk of believing that, to be “smart” in announcing the Gospel, it is necessary to be use digital media. The risk of misunderstanding reality, thinking that the media is the message. The risk of focussing only on the instruments, taking for granted the message of the Gospel and the ability to share it and to bear witness to it.

I learned in the past few years that you can only really share something if this content, this message is important to you. For that reason, today the ability to announce the Gospel message is strictly connected with the possibility to share good and real life stories. Saint Paul VI said that this is not the time for teachers, but for witnesses. We need to be able to present stories. Today, only real life experiences can touch the heart of other people. It does not mean we should try to change the reality: if there is a reality of suffering and darkness, we need to show it. But it is also possible to share a light of hope, even when we are overwhelmed by the night.

As we know, fake news, also about the Church and the Pope, are frequently published and shared online. There are strong attacks, aggressive blogs. We have in the West journalists and bloggers, who every day wake up thinking of how to attack and destroy the Pope, the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ. What is the appropriate reaction to this attitude?

First, it would be a big mistake to believe that these people have in the real world and in the real Church life the same strength and visibility that they are getting in the worldwide web. Thank God this is not true. A lot of attacks are coming from small groups that are very powerful and seem very influential on the Internet, but are not so in real Church life.

Secondly, we shouldn’t forget that it is almost always dangerous to answer to attacks made in bad faith. Because answering means putting ourselves on the same level as the attacks. On the contrary, we need to share the good news, to present good experiences, sharing the face of our Church and of our God: mercy, compassion, the ability to be close to people, especially those who are poor, sick, hurt, discriminated, persecuted.

As Christians, when we use social media, we must remember that Jesus said to the first disciples: by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (Gv 13, 35). In this sense, the hatred found in the catholic social media world really becomes a testimony against the Gospel.
Further, I believe there is an absolute need for good journalism. We need professional journalism. In a time in which everyone can open a blog and post comments about anything, we need well prepared people to communicate news, and facts. If all around the world everyone is posting comments and opinions, who is in charge of presenting the facts, as soon and as accurately as possible? This is precisely the job, the task, the mission of professional journalism.

The Vatican Media system reform has changed the face of our media, which until three years ago functioned separated from each other. The challenge was to share energies, journalists and employees, trying to create a new coordinated system in which every media - radio, tv, newspaper, website, the Vatican Publishing House- could retain its own identity and at the same time be able to work together, sharing resources, information, articles, contacts to achieve a better result.

The Vatican News website - published in 35 different languages (you can find it also in Arabic, the chief as you know is our abouna Yammine) - is the unified output of this important challenge. It has been online for a year and a half, and the number of our visitors is increasing every day: my editorial goal is to offer to every one of our readers good journalism and solid and complete information about the Pope, the Vatican, the Catholic Church, religious dialogue and international news. And we try to look at what the other media is often overlooking.

Finally, I want to draw attention to the connections existing between us, between local Churches and the Holy See. There is obviously the most important connection that is represented by the liturgy and the prayers. But there is also the possibility to share stories and news between us. I want to give an example of that: in the next few days every catholic bishop will receive a letter from our Dicastery for the Communication, in which it is explained how they can get a widget - a frame - that they will be able to include in every catholic website. It means that not only every diocesan website, but also those of every parish or catholic organization would be able to get this frame: it will be regularly and automatically updated with the official information published in Vatican.va website, but also the news from the Vatican News website, in your chosen language.

Many thanks - Shukran

Wed, 06/19/2019 - 21:54
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