Church Must Use Media to Proclaim the Gospel

Thursday, November 20 1997

Vatican City (CCCB) — Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte of Montreal, in an intervention at the Synod of Bishops’ Special Assembly for America , said the media play such an important role today that the Church cannot avoid involving them in the proclamation of the Gospel. Cardinal Turcotte said the Church must not be afraid to entrust the gospel to the media. “If Christians are not in the media,” he added, “they risk being absent from the modern world – a world that needs the Good News.”

The Cardinal, who is also President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, was intervening in response to Number 21 of the Instrumentum Laboris that deals with the Gospel and the means of social communication. Cardinal Turcotte noted that television is the preferred choice of Canadians for obtaining the news with the average person spending 25 hours a week in front of their television set. “The visual image appeals particularly to emotions, more than to the intellect,” he explained to the Synod delegates, and so benefits those who recount events more than those who try explain them.

The Montreal archbishop remarked on the strengths of television broadcasts in such events as celebrations with the Holy Father, World Youth Days, state funerals and similar occurrences. The Cardinal stated television is not suited as much for courses in theory as it is for “living testimonies” such as Mother Teresa and Jean Vanier. Keeping this in mind, he talked about the potential for those involved in the faith, whether struggling for justice and working with the poor or offering stimulating ideas to major societal debates. “Television shapes attitudes by sharing values, both good and bad,” he said in calling for Christians on the American continent who are engaged in communications to collaborate in developing programming that “promotes Christian values, social involvement solidarity, the family and other important concepts.”

The Cardinal also touched on the continuing potential of radio, especially with the advent of digital radio, saying this new technology will make this medium even more accessible than ever. He mentioned the Internet’s wealth of information, some credible and some questionable, and the possibility for dioceses and parishes to be present on the Internet with minimum training needed. He also recalled the major role newspapers and periodicals have played in the church, providing a clear exposition and development of Christian thinking. He suggested that “publishing resources be regrouped to produce publications of greater quality and wider circulation.”

Cardinal Turcotte, after his intervention, said the Church must acquire a new mentality and understanding when it comes to the electronic media. He says this will involve adopting a new language of expression, and learning the limitations of these media as a critical awareness of them and a creative vision are developed.