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The Roman Catholic church is moving into the digital world. This was made clear in a pastoral letter on communications by the 19 Archbishops and Bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) and which formed part of the official launch of the Annual Caribbean School of Catholic Communications held at the Emmaus Retreat Centre, Arima, recently.
The means of communicating have changed radically since the beginning of time. According to the Old Testament, the Lord, as part of His mission, communicated with the crowds by preaching and teaching “using stories, parables and statements.”
In the Acts of the Apostles we read: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (1:8)
And so today, “Evangelising communication comprises all the levels and means of communicating from interpersonal through group communication to the mass media and the modern means of communicating through Internet, social media and digital networks.
“It is the church’s ministry and mission to communicate the Good News of salvation and God’s love to all of humanity. The church’s call to evangelise and her prophetic mission provide the church with the challenge and opportunity to seek to influence the values, judgments and actions of the Caribbean society,” the pastoral added.
Doing this, the church then invites its people “to a public dialogue of faith and strive to create an atmosphere conducive to Christian living for all members of the Christian church in the Caribbean,” said the letter.
Communication for the church therefore, is much more than just being about technology or efficiency. It is a “spiritual responsibility.” It is also about people saying what is most precious—that call to reconcile to God. Ultimately, therefore the church is about building communion with God and a unity among peoples which can only be done through words of hope and deeds of love that is through our very way of life.
The AEC Bishops, seeing the unimaginable, rapid development in communication technology that has taken place since the publication of Dawn of a New Era: Pastoral Instruction on Social Communications (Aetatis Novae) 25 years ago, wanted to reflect upon the gift and challenge that contemporary communication had bought to our region.
They (bishops) could not help but observe the serious challenges that this speedy technological development was posing, especially to our Caribbean people.
“In as much as digital exclusion is obvious, parishes, communities, Catholic cultural centres and educational institutions could foster the creation of network points and digital rooms to promote inclusion, developing initiatives and utilising those already existing by viewing them positively.”
“It is our hope,” said the pastoral letter, “to offer a pastoral reflection on the gift and challenge of communications and the rapid development in technology that we are experiencing.
“Furthermore, we will propose the design of an integral pastoral communications plan for our AEC region to assist our dioceses to more effectively use the gifts of this new technological evolution, ensuring it will always bring Good News to the poor, the marginalised and those now in need.
“Finally, we will offer concrete steps to ensure all of our dioceses harness the new opportunities that these emerging and new digital developments have brought us,” said the letter.
PART 2: NEXT WEEK
Vernon Khelawan is a columnist for Catholic Media Services Limited (Camsel), the official communications arm of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain. Its offices are located at 31 Independence Square. Telephone: 623-7620.