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POPE-COMMUNICATIONS (UPDATED) Jan-24-2008 (680 words) xxxi

Pope says media need ethics in world where facts are distorted

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a world where the media increasingly distort facts and manipulate minds, the communication industry needs an ethics code, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Just as bioethics guide workers in the field of medicine and science to protect human dignity, "many people now think there is a need, in this sphere (of communication), for info-ethics," the pope said in his message for World Communications Day, which will be celebrated May 4 in most countries.

The pope called for communicators to be courageous and authentic witnesses to the truth.

Media workers must "remain at the service of the person and of the common good" and "foster man's ethical formation ... man's inner growth," Pope Benedict said in the message released Jan. 24 at the Vatican.

As the theme for the 2008 celebration the pope chose: "The Media: At the Crossroads Between Self-Promotion and Service. Searching for the Truth in Order to Share It With Others."

The theme is important, Pope Benedict said, because the mass media have experienced a "meteoric technological evolution" which has given communicators "extraordinary potential" as well as "appalling possibilities for evil that formerly did not exist."

While the media always have had an enormous influence on people's lives and society, there seems to be a growing tendency today for communication workers to exploit the tools at their disposal "for indiscriminate self-promotion" or "to manipulate consciences," he said.

"Today communication seems increasingly to claim not simply to represent reality, but to determine it, owing to the power and the force of suggestion that it possesses," the pope said.

Without mentioning any examples, the pope said there have been certain situations in which the media have not been used "for the proper purpose of disseminating information, but to create events." He wrote that this marked a "dangerous change" in the role of the media that many church leaders have noted with concern.

Communication should maintain an ethical underpinning so that it can be at the service of the person and the common good, he said.

Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said while Catholic media are naturally expected to follow an ethical mandate and uphold human dignity "they must have, I believe, something more" to offer their audience.

In their search for the truth, Catholic media also must highlight "that for us this truth is a person -- it is Jesus Christ," he told journalists during a Jan. 24 press conference at which the papal message was presented.

Catholic media also should aid people in their personal quests for truth, the Italian archbishop said. But, he warned, Catholic media must avoid becoming "tools of religious fundamentalism" or cultural chauvinism.

Catholic media need to serve the wider culture and help teach "what dialogue means, what it means to be people who respect others' positions, who know how to welcome and how to understand" others, he said.

In his message, the pope praised the invaluable contribution the mass media have made in spreading literacy, fostering a sense of community and helping "the development of democracy and dialogue among peoples."

If it were not for the free and vast circulation of news, facts and ideas, "it would truly be difficult to foster and strengthen understanding between nations, to breathe life into peace dialogues around the globe," and promote "the ideals of solidarity and social justice," said the pope.

The pope urged media workers to build "a world of greater justice and solidarity" and help quench people's thirst for the truth.

"The truth which makes us free is Christ, because only he can respond fully to the thirst for life and love that is present in the human heart," he said. The pope prayed for communicators to be courageous and "authentic witnesses to the truth, faithful to Christ's mandate and enthusiastic for the message of faith."

- - -

Editor's Note: The complete text of the pope's message in English can be found online at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/communications/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20080124_42nd-world-communications-day_en.html.


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