Pope’s Message for World Communications Day 2004 published “The Media and the Family: A Risk and a Richness”

26 Jan 2004


26 JANUARY 2004


“The Media and the Family: A Risk and a Richness”

Pope John Paul’s Message for the 38th World Communications Day, which will be celebrated
on May 23, 2004 on the theme “The Media and the Family: A Risk and a Richness,” was made
public today, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists.

Following are excerpts from this annual Message which was published in English, French,
Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and German:

“The extraordinary growth of the communications media and their increased availability
has brought exceptional opportunities for enriching the lives not only of individuals,
but also of families. At the same time, families today face new challenges arising from
the varied and often contradictory messages presented by the mass media. The theme
chosen for the 2004 World Communications Day – “The Media and the Family: A Risk and
a Richness” – is a timely one, for it invites sober reflection on the use which families
make of the media and, in turn, on the way that families and family concerns are treated
by the media.

“This year’s theme is also a reminder to everyone, both communicators and those whom
they address, that all communication has a moral dimension. People grow or diminish in
moral stature by the words which they speak and the messages which they choose to hear.”

“Thanks to the unprecedented expansion of the communications market in recent decades,
many families throughout the world, even those of quite modest means, now have access
in their own homes to immense and varied media resources.”

“Yet these same media also have the capacity to do grave harm to families by presenting
an inadequate or even deformed outlook on life, on the family, on religion and on morality.
This power either to reinforce or override traditional values like religion, culture,
and family was clearly seen by th e Second Vatican Council. Communication in any form
must always be inspired by the ethical criterion of respect for the truth and for the
dignity of the human person.

“These considerations apply in particular to the treatment of the family in the media.
On the one hand, marriage and family life are frequently depicted in a sensitive manner,
realistic but also sympathetic, that celebrates virtues like love, fidelity, forgiveness,
and generous self-giving for others, .. yet at the same time make an effort to separate
right from wrong, to distinguish true love from its counterfeits, and to show the
irreplaceable importance of the family as the fundamental unit of society.

“On the other hand, the family and family life are all too often inadequately portrayed
in the media. Infidelity, sexual activity outside of marriage, and the absence of a moral
and spiritual vision of the marriage covenant are depicted uncritically, while positive
support is at times given to divorce, contraception, abortion and homosexuality.”

“Conscientious reflection on the ethical dimension of communications should ensure
that these powerful instruments of communication will remain genuine sources of

“It is not so easy to resist commercial pressures or the demands of conformity to
secular ideologies, but that is what responsible communicators must do.”

“Public authorities themselves have a serious duty to uphold marriage and the family.
Instead many now accept and act upon the unsound libertarian arguments which advocate
practices which contribute to the grave phenomenon of family crisis and the weakening
of the very concept of the family. Without resorting to censorship, it is imperative
that public authorities set in place regulatory policies and procedures to ensure that
the media do not act against the good of the family. Family representatives should be
part of this policy-making.”

“The media should not appear to have an agenda hostile to the sound family values of
traditional cultures or the goal of replacing those values, as part of a process of
globalization, with the secularized values of consumer society.

“Parents, as the primary and most important educators of their children, are also
the first to teach them about the media. They are called to train their offspring in
the “moderate, critical, watchful and prudent use of the media” in the home. When
parents do that consistently and well, family life is greatly enriched.”

“In view of their great power to shape ideas and influence behaviour, professional
communicators should recognize that they have a moral responsibility not only to give
families all possible encouragement, assistance, and support to that end, but also to
exercise wisdom, good judgement and fairness in their presentation of issues involving
sexuality, marriage and family life.

“The media are welcomed daily as a familiar guest in many homes and families. On this
World Communications Day I encourage professional communicators and families alike
to acknowledge this unique privilege and the accountability which it entails.”

26 January 2004

Further information:
Director of Communications Martin Long 086 1727 678 (Email: [email protected])
Communications Officer Brenda Drumm 087 233 7797 (Email: [email protected])


The full text of the Pope’s Message is available on the Vatican website (www.vatican.va) –
Click here for full text.