THE importance of technology to the evolution of 21st century communication cannot be over-emphasised, and corroborating this fact, the Catholic Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI asserted recently that it has aided development of democracy and dialogue among peoples across the world.
The pontiff in his message to the 42nd Catholic World Communications Day with the theme “The Media: At the Crossroads between Self-Promotion and Service. Searching for the Truth in order to Share it with Others,” recognised the essence of technology in human development.
He noted that in view of the sudden technological evolution, the media have acquired extraordinary potential, while raising new and hitherto unimaginable questions and problems.
“There is no denying the contribution they can make to the diffusion of news, to knowledge of facts and to the dissemination of information: they have played a decisive part, for example, in the spread of literacy and in socialization, as well as the development of democracy and dialogue among peoples,” he said.
Truly, according to him, there is no area of human experience, especially given the vast phenomenon of globalization, in which the media have not become an integral part of interpersonal relations and of social, economic, political and religious development.
The pontiff also recalled that in his message on this year’s World Day of Peace, held on January 1, 2008) “The social communications media, in particular, because of their educational potential, have a special responsibility for promoting respect for the family, making clear its expectations and rights, and presenting all its beauty.”
As said by him, without 21st media contribution it would truly be difficult to foster and strengthen understanding between nations, to breathe life into peace dialogues around the globe, and to guarantee the primary good of access to information.
He emphasised at the same time that the media through the use of technology has ensured free circulation of ideas, especially those promoting the ideals of solidarity and social justice.
“Indeed, the media, taken overall, are not only vehicles for spreading ideas: they can and should also be instruments at the service of a world of greater justice and solidarity,” he declared.
Pope Benedict cautioned against the use of media to propagate injustice in the society.
“Unfortunately, though, they risk being transformed into systems aimed at subjecting humanity to agendas dictated by the dominant interests of the day. This is what happens when communication is used for ideological purposes or for the aggressive advertising of consumer products,” he said.
He decried that though the media could be assumed to represent the reality, it could tend to legitimise or impose distorted models of personal, family or social life.
He therefore advised that in order to attract listeners and increase the size of audiences, it does not hesitate at times to have recourse to vulgarity and violence, and to overstep the mark.
“The media can also present and support models of development which serve to increase rather than reduce the technological divide between rich and poor countries,” the holy father said.
The role that the means of social communication have acquired in society must now be considered an integral part of the “anthropological” question that is emerging as the key challenge of the third millennium.
He pointed out that though human life, marriage and the family, and contemporary issues of peace, justice and protection of creation needed to be preserved, “so too in the sector of social communications there are essential dimensions of the human person and the truth concerning the human person coming into play.”
Emphasising that when communication loses its potency in terms of ethical underpinning and eludes society’s control, it ends up no longer taking into account the centrality and inviolable dignity of the human person.
“As a result it risks exercising a negative influence on people’s consciences and choices and definitively conditioning their freedom and their very lives,” he said.
Pope Benedict further said that it is essential that social communications should assiduously defend the person and fully respect human dignity, noting that many people now think there is a need, in this sphere, for “info-ethics”, just as there exist the bioethics in the field of medicine and in scientific research linked to life.
He advised that the media must avoid becoming spokesmen for economic materialism and ethical relativism, true scourges of our time.
“Instead, they can and must contribute to making known the truth about humanity, and defending it against those who tend to deny or destroy it. One might even say that seeking and presenting the truth about humanity constitutes the highest vocation of social communication,” he said.
Exploiting this purpose, the Pope said many refined and engaged on techniques that the media have at their disposal is an exciting task, entrusted in the first place to managers and operators in the sector.
“Yet it is a task which to some degree concerns us all, because we are all consumers and operators of social communications in this era of globalization,” he declared.The new media, namely telecommunications and internet in particular, Pope Benedict said are changing the very face of communication; perhaps this is a valuable opportunity to reshape it, to make more visible, the essential and indispensable elements of the truth about the human person as preached by Pope John Paul in his Apostolic Letter - The Rapid Development.