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What is World Communications Day?

Every year, on the Sunday before Pentecost, the Church celebrates the achievements of the communications media and focuses on how it can best use them to promote gospel values.

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World Communications Day was established by Pope Paul VI in 1967 as an annual celebration that encourages us to reflect on the opportunities and challenges that the modern means of social communication (the press, motions pictures, radio, television and the internet) afford the Church to communicate the gospel message.

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The celebration came in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, which realised it must engage fully with the modern world. This realisation is expressed in the opening statement of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes on “The Church in the Modern World”, which says: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anguishes of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anguishes of the followers of Christ as well.”

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In setting it up on Sunday 7th May 1967, less than two years after the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI, knowing that the Church is truly and intimately linked with mankind and its history, wanted to draw attention to the communications media and the enormous power they have for cultural transformation.

He and his successors have consistently recognised the positive opportunities the communications media afford for enriching human lives with the values of truth, beauty and goodness, but also the possible negative effects of spreading less noble values and pressurising minds and consciences with a multiplicity of contradictory appeals.

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Pope John Paul II (1990) in his encyclical Redemptorismissio 37 said: “The world of communications is the first Areopagus of the modern age, unifying humanity and turning it into what is known as a ‘global village’. The communications media have acquired such importance as to be for many the chief means of information and education, of guidance and inspiration for many people in their personal, family and social behaviour. In particular, the younger generation is growing up in a world conditioned by the mass media.”

Increasingly aware of the world as a global village and the power of the media as a free market place for philosophies and values, the Church has sought to be in there with its message and to use the media to proclaim the values it sees are beneficial for human development and for the eternal welfare of people.

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Two important documents of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications – Communio et Progressio (1971) and Aetatis Novae (1992) have presented an analysis of the world of the communications media and made recommendations for the Church’s action. The Vatican itself has set a headline in updating its use of the full range of the communications media. On a recent visit to Vatican Radio, Pope Benedict was presented with an iPod of the music of Mozart in which he has a particular interest.

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The Internet

In 2002, The Pontifical Council for Social Communications produced two documents on the Internet. The first is an analysis of the opportunities and challenges the Internet presents for evangelisation and is entitled The Church and Internet. The other sets out an ethical code which should guide its use and is entitled Ethics in Internet.

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