News from the Center of the World, page twoCompassion interviews Padre Ciro Benedettini, C.P. who serves as Deputy Director of the Vatican Press Office.
How does your familiarity with world events and the role of the Church touch your life as a Passionist dedicated to the memory of Passion of Jesus?
It helps me see the power of the Cross in action: the Cross as mystery of evil in the immense suffering and humiliation of so many brothers and sisters and in the persecution of Christians; the Cross as a means of redemption in the struggle against evil for a better world; the Cross as pedestal to resurrection in the good that most men and women carry out, frequently in silence, and in the Church’s capability, with all its limits, to proclaim hope and salvation, driving humankind to solidarity and love.
Since the journalists come from all over the world and different religions, what things do they tend to ask about the Catholic Church, and how do you help them to understand our Christian faith?
The Holy See Press Office is one of the great outposts of information in the “global village.” Major international agencies, international TV corporations, and daily newspapers from all over the world have at least one person accredited in our Office. We have more than 400 international journalists permanently accredited and during the year we welcome on average 3500 journalists for special events.
We do not ask the journalists their religious affiliation, only their professional qualification. Newly accredited journalists are recommended a series of books or sources that may help them understand the reality of the Catholic Church.
Every year, a Roman pontifical university offers a specific course for newly accredited journalists on the Catholic Church and the organization and work of the Holy See. Unfortunately, secular media favor a polemical attitude and scandals in providing religious information, at the expense of the religious message proper, of which Benedict XVI is an unequaled master. It is doubtless, furthermore, that in some areas of the world there is an anti-Catholic prejudice.
Modern movies like The DaVinci Code often portray the Vatican in negative ways. What can ordinary Catholics do to keep spreading the positive message about the Church’s mission in today’s world?
It is not a lack of interest in religion that we have today. There is even too much talk about religion, especially Catholicism, which is partial and faulty, stressing only the negative facts, without providing complete information on the reality and activity of the Church.
Bad information is fought with good information. Catholics need to be informed, and the structures of the Church need to help Christians with correct information. I often notice a sense of distrust in Catholics, especially with regard to the hierarchy, and an excessive readiness to believe in those who have an interest in throwing discredit on the Church or to thrive at the Church’s expense.
It is not a matter of denying scandals, which rather must be denounced, or hiding the negative aspects of the Church. The problem is to offer and seek a more realistic and complete picture of the Church.
The Vatican has recently made great strides to communicate with modern technology. Are people around the world taking advantage of these new efforts, and experiencing more of what the Church can contribute to the quality of faith and life in the modern world? The word that perhaps best describes the reality of the Church is “communication.”
The Church exists to communicate the Good News. Therefore, it must use all means that technology provides in order to communicate. Unlike many other communicators, we have beautiful, useful, and indispensable things to say and we cannot be silent or timid. Ours is the era of the “information society”. Every day we are subject to a deluge of information while proper religious information is weak and marginal compared to the rumble of global communication.
Christians must be capable of selecting among the many sources of information. Otherwise, faith is overrun by doubt, suspicion and apathy, and the dutiful and loving bond with Christ and the Church is weakened. The receivers need to make an effort to be in tune with the informer. Without the readiness of the user, Christian information, which requires a certain endeavor, is destined to remain a voice in the desert.
One last observation: However beautiful audio and video messages may be, however powerful and pervasive the new means of communication may sound, the holiness of people, especially of the clergy, is the most convincing message and the most effective means of sharing the faith. ✙