The president of SIGNIS urged the world’s bishops as the “chief storyteller” in their diocese to use all media at their disposal to “make known” stories “of faith and hope” and of local Catholic heroes who exemplify Christ’s love to give people courage in “difficult times,” like this current pandemic.
Catholic media outlets also can provide “basic tools” to the faithful “to spot” false stories, such the narratives about the “Chinese” virus causing the pandemic and rumours of “dangerous fake cures,” said Helen Osman, who heads SIGNIS, the World Catholic Association for Communication, based in Brussels. She made the comments in a statement issued ahead of World Communications Day, which is celebrated this Sunday (24th May).
Pope Francis’ message for this year’s World Communications Day is: “That you may tell your children and grandchildren” (Ex 10:2): Life becomes history.”
The pope “reminds us of the importance of the stories we tell, especially in the midst of the din of media that leave us feeling dislocated,” Osman said. “The narratives that we live by must reflect the vision of the interconnectedness of all human life.”
She continued, “The pope reminds us that the Holy Spirit writes the story of God’s love on the human heart.”
“Many of the stories that relate to the experience of people today are told in secular media, printed and otherwise. In some cultures, the role of traditional storytellers serves the same role,” Osman said. “In all cases, their power derives from their affirmation of deeper truths of the human condition, especially the enduring strength of love.”
“How do you offer guidance to your people to see and reflect on the truth where it may be found in the media, arts, and in local traditions, perhaps in places they may not expect it?” she asked the bishops.
Osman acknowledged many dioceses already have “robust plans to celebrate World Communications Day,” but hoped the questions she raised “may further enhance these initiatives.”
She said SIGNIS has resources at its website to help with diocesan celebrations, www.signis.net, and also urged bishops to look at how their diocese might collaborate with local organisations and educational institutions that foster media literacy.
These organisations “share with the Church the desire to embrace the truth that sets us free,” Osman added.
SIGNIS Media. Radio Desk meets in Rome
“Catholic media have a particular responsibility tied to their work. That responsibility means that no one should be left out. This is important, and it is part of the reason why Pope Francis often speaks about the Church on the periphery. Radio is not ‘old media’. In my opinion, radio is also media for the future. Consider the fact that new ways of using or listening to radio are constantly coming up. Take the podcast phenomenon. Podcasts are proving to be a new way of listening to the radio. Radio still has that unique possibility of enabling the sharing of good stories – quickly and in real-time. When I speak of good news or good stories, I do not speak about an artificial reality. Good stories may or may not be dramatic. Yet they can be told in such a way that it is possible to see the faces of people, hear their voices unfiltered and listen to them articulate their own testimonies.”
Doctor Andrea Tornielli, the Editorial Director of Vatican Media, addressed these words to a group of international Catholic radio practitioners as they began their meeting in Rome recently under the auspices of the re-launched SIGNIS Radio Desk.
An intense but fruitful three days of exchange
The SIGNIS Radio Desk team met for three days at the Domus Internationalis Paulus VI in Rome. The purpose was to plan strategies to open up membership to broader participation, enabling members from all continents to share programmes, ideas and also to learn from each other. Also present at the opening session of the meeting was Dr Alessandro Gisotti, the former Interim Director of the Vatican Press Office and now Deputy Editorial Director of Vatican Media.
The Vatican Widget
Both Doctors Tornielli and Gisotti urged participants to collaborate and support Vatican communications initiatives. In particular, they requested the support of SIGNIS in the promotion and use of the Vatican Widget, an application already available, designed to provide live content updates from the Vatican to diocesan or national websites. (To embed the widget on your website – episcopal conference, diocesan, parish, radio, TV – kindly contact widgets@ vatican.va with your request).
Research in Catholic radio and other media
Some recommendations from the meeting included opening up the Radio Desk team to more members across the globe, especially those working in Catholic media; carrying out and promoting research in Catholic radio and media around the world. The research findings will then be made available on the SIGNIS website and social media. Other initiatives to be undertaken are encouraging the formation and training in the medium of radio as a tool for evangelisation around the world.
A SIGNIS radio encounter in Sri Lanka, October 2020
It was also agreed that an international radio encounter would be held in Sri Lanka, October 2020. The gathering in Sri Lanka will be an encounter bringing Asia and the world under the SIGNIS and SIGNIS-Asia Radio desks. It will be open to all those engaged with Catholic radio or media. Interested participants can receive more information on this media encounter by emailing Radio.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Share: A new catchword for the SIGNIS Radio Desk
Commenting on the meeting, Angela Morais of Brazil said she was happy that the Radio Desk had chosen as its driving force the word share. At the beginning of the meeting, the Radio Desk chose the verb “to share” as a way of symbolizing what the desk wants to achieve.
The miracle of the five loaves and two fishes in the Gospels was based on sharing. Jesus used five loaves and two fishes shared by the boy to feed a multitude. When we share, no one goes away from the table hungry.
“For the Radio Desk, the verb ‘to share’ was an aha! moment in our thinking about the world reality and the reality of radio. The more we can share edifying projects happening around the world, the better for the message the Gospel,” explained Morais.
Participants at the meeting included the SIGNIS Desk Chair, Fr. Paul Samasumo (Italy); Maria Chiara De Lorenzo (Italy) Isabel Gatti (Argentina); Fr. Andrew Kaufa (Kenya); Angela Morais (Brazil); Bernadetta Widiandayani (Indonesia); Pamela Aleman (Canada). Also in attendance were José Alberto Chavez Del Rio and Isaac Atchikiti, both of SIGNIS Services Rome.
The is article was published in SIGNIS Media. Special digital edition.