The annual meeting of the Media Officers and Spokespersons of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe took place this year in Rome, at the invitation of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. The meetings with Pope Francis on the occasion of the Wednesday General Audience and subsequently with various people within the Dicastery for Social Communications (Press Office, Theological-Pastoral Department, etc.) were at the heart of the meeting.
The thread linking the various sessions and providing a focus to the issues discussed was the theme “How to communicate Christ and the Church in Europe”. The Rome meeting was chaired by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, President of CCEE, who recalled that “the Gospel’s best ally is not organisations, projects, and resources, not even culture, but humanity with its inner indelible question about Truth and infinite need and desire for beauty and goodness”.
Particular attention was given to the digital world in its various dimensions and to the proclamation of the Gospel to young people, especially through social networks. Helping the reflections were various experts from the world of the entrepreneur (ENI, Google, Maxfone), of politics (the Trento De Gasperi Foundation), of Catholic communication (Aleteia, Aciprensa) and of various church bodies (Communion and Liberation, the Salesians and the Jesuits).
Social networks are “places” particularly frequented by young people who spend a lot of their time there each day. Even if these can be considered places of “light” relationships, the young people of today, just as those of every age, need relationships which go beyond the limitations of the screen when it is a matter of tackling their existential questions and those linked to the spiritual sphere. Social media are very important, especially when they become places where life experience is witnessed and narrated. In the approach to social media, therefore, it is essential to avoid any form of criminalisation: all things considered, they are somewhat recent tools – almost still in a phase of adolescence – which therefore offer great potential but also need to be governed by human intelligence. On the other hand, it would be wrong to reduce them to simply tools, they are also places which are inhabited, even though they are never a “complete home”. To inhabit the digital world also means to take into account the different devices. To proclaim Christ to young people, then, is not a technological question. Whether one considers social media to be places or tools, the challenge for the Church remains the same: to intercept the human person in their fundamental need for the infinite. In this way, the Church is present in the digital world to encounter humanity, young people in particular, to bring the message of salvation which is Christ.
It is clear that this “digital presence” does not replace the real and physical encounter with the proclaiming community. Precisely for this reason it is possible and desirable to link technology and sacred places, so that the latter may become an opportunity to offer an experience of the personal encounter with God.
The Rome meeting also included some working time with some personnel from the Holy See’s Press Office and the heads of the Dicastery for Communication. With representatives for the Synod of Bishops and the “Youth Office” of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, the Media Officers and Spokespersons were introduced to the social media communication plans for the next Synod on Young People (scheduled for October) and for World Youth Day in Panama, in January 2019. They also received further information about the forthcoming World Meeting of Families (21-26 August).
On Wednesday 27 June, the international Catholic network EWTN organised a reception on behalf of the Media Officers and Spokespersons of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe, attended by a number of Rome-based journalists who cover the Vatican. The event was chaired by His Grace Mgr Paul Gallagher, Secretary for relations with States of the Secretariat of State, who spoke about The Church’s contribution to the building of Europe. The text of His Grace Gallagher is available in Italian here.
The 2019 meeting will take place in Malta from 17-19 June at the invitation of the Maltese Bishops’ Conference.