Message of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI for the 40th World Communications Day, Sunday 28th May 2006

26 May 2006


26 MAY 2006


40th WORLD COMMUNICATIONS DAY – Sunday 28th May 2006

Theme: “The Media: A Network for Communication, Communion and Cooperation”

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. In the wake of the fortieth-anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical
Council, I am happy to recall its Decree on the Means of Social Communication, Inter Mirifica,
which in particular recognized the power of the media to influence the whole of human society.
The need to harness that power for the benefit of all mankind has prompted me, in this my first
message for World Communications Day, to reflect briefly on the idea of the media as a network
facilitating communication, communion, and cooperation.

Saint Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, vividly depicts our human vocation to be “sharers
in the divine nature” (Dei Verbum, 2): through Christ we have access in one Spirit to the
Father; so we are no longer strangers and aliens but citizens with the saints and members
of the household of God, growing into a holy temple, a dwelling place for God (cf. Eph 2:18-22).
This sublime portrayal of a life of communion engages all aspects of our lives as Christians.
The call to be true to the self-communication of God in Christ is in fact a call to recognize
his dynamic force within us, which then seeks to spread outwards to others, so that his love
can truly become the prevalent measure of the world (cf. Homily for World Youth Day, Cologne,
21 August 2005).

2. Technological advances in the media have in certain respects conquered time and space, making
communication between people, even when separated by vast distances, both instantaneous and
direct. This development presents an enormous potential for service of the common good and
“constitutes a patrimony to safeguard and promote” (Rapid Development, 10). Yet, as we all
know, our world is far from perfect. Daily we are reminded that immediacy of communication
does not necessarily translate into the building of cooperation and communion in society.

To inform the consciences of individuals and help shape their thinking is never a neutral task.
Authentic communication demands principled courage and resolve. It requires a determination of
those working in the media not to wilt under the weight of so much information nor even to be
content with partial or provisional truths. Instead it necessitates both seeking and transmitting
what is the ultimate foundation and meaning of human, personal and social existence (cf. Fides
et Ratio, 5). In this way the media can contribute constructively to the propagation of all
that is good and true.

3. The call for today’s media to be responsible – to be the protagonist of truth and promoter
of the peace that ensues – carries with it a number of challenges. While the various instruments
of social communication facilitate the exchange of information, ideas, and mutual understanding
among groups, they are also tainted by ambiguity. Alongside the provision of a “great round
table” for dialogue, certain tendencies within the media engender a kind of monoculture that
dims creative genius, deflates the subtlety of complex thought and undervalues the specificity
of cultural practices and the particularity of religious belief. These are distortions that
occur when the media industry becomes self-serving or solely profit-driven, losing the sense
of accountability to the common good.

Accurate reporting of events, full explanation of matters of public concern, and fair
representation of diverse points of view must, then, always be fostered. The need to uphold
and support marriage and family life is of particular importance, precisely because it pertains
to the foundation of every culture and society (cf. Apostolicam Actuositatem, 11). In cooperation
with parents, the social communications and entertainment industries can assist in the difficult
but sublimely satisfying vocation of bringing up children, through presenting edifying models
of human life and love (cf. Inter Mirifica, 11). How disheartening and destructive it is to
us all when the opposite occurs. Do not our hearts cry out, most especially, when our young
people are subjected to debased or false expressions of love which ridicule the God-given
dignity of every human person and undermine family interests?

4. To encourage both a constructive presence and a positive perception of the media in society,
I wish to reiterate the importance of three steps, identified by my venerable predecessor
Pope John Paul II, necessary for their service of the common good: formation, participation,
and dialogue (cf. Rapid Development, 11).

Formation in the responsible and critical use of the media helps people to use them intelligently
and appropriately. The profound impact upon the mind of new vocabulary and of images, which
the electronic media in particular so easily introduce into society, cannot be overestimated.
Precisely because contemporary media shape popular culture, they themselves must overcome any
temptation to manipulate, especially the young, and instead pursue the desire to form and serve.
In this way they protect rather than erode the fabric of a civil society worthy of the human

Participation in the mass media arises from their nature as a good destined for all people.
As a public service, social communication requires a spirit of cooperation and co-responsibility
with vigorous accountability of the use of public resources and the performance of roles of
public trust (cf. Ethics in Communications, 20), including recourse to regulatory standards
and other measures or structures designed to effect this goal.

Finally, the promotion of dialogue through the exchange of learning, the expression of
solidarityand the espousal of peace presents a great opportunity for the mass media which
must be recognized and exercised. In this way they become influential and appreciated
resources for building the civilization of love for which all peoples yearn.

I am confident that serious efforts to promote these three steps will assist the media to
develop soundly as a network of communication, communion and cooperation, helping men, women
and children, to become more aware of the dignity of the human person, more responsible, and
more open to others especially the neediest and the weakest members of society (cf. Redemptor
Hominis, 15; Ethics in Communications, 4).

In conclusion, I return to the encouraging words of Saint Paul: Christ is our peace. In him
we are one (cf. Eph 2:14). Let us together break down the dividing walls of hostility and
build up the communion of love according to the designs of the Creator made known through
his Son!

From the Vatican, 24 January 2006, the Feast of Saint Francis de Sales.


Notes for Editors
St Francis de Sales is the Patron Saint of writers, editors and journalists.
World Communications Day, the only worldwide celebration called for by the
Second Vatican Council, is marked in most countries on the recommendation of
the bishops of the world on the Sunday before Pentecost, which in 2006 is the
28 May.

Further information:

Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)