Directors of Communication Centres have been urged to invest in their communication skills if they want to make an impact in the Church and Society. The biggest challenge for the Church Communicators is to communicate the truth promptly and effectively in the World, stated Bp Theodore Mascarenhas while addressing a gathering of directors of communication Centres of around 50 dioceses in India.
The CBCI Office of Social Communications (CBCI-OSC) organised a meeting of Regional Chairman Bishops, Secretaries of Regional Commissions and Directors of Diocesan Communications offices at Nav Sadhana Pastoral Centre, Varanasi, from March 11 to 15.
Addressing the assembly, Bp Mascarenhas, the Secretary General of the CBCI, urged all church communicators to speak out and present the church’s perspective based on three principles : conviction of the faith; commitment and faithfulness to the Church; and commitment to the Kingdom of God.
The Meeting was attended by Bishop Salvador Lobo of Baruipur (Chairman, National OSC), Bishop Anthony Poola of Kurnool (Member Bishop) and Bishop Sebastian Thekethecheril of Vijayapuram (the CBCI-OSC Kerala Regional Chairman). Bishop Eugene Joseph of Varanasi welcomed the delegates from all over India at the inaugural session.
Bishop Mascarenhas emphasized the importance of being communicators of the Good News, in the inaugural Mass celebrated by him. He also highlighted the need for effective communication strategies in his address to the directors. Through a few examples, he illustrated how the Church has been successful in dealing with situations when communicated promptly and effectively; however, when the church hasn’t had an appropriate and quick response, the issues in question had “run away” from the hands of the church.
Father Varaprasad Mareni, National Secretary of CBCI-OSC, welcomed the delegates to the conference.
Fr. Vijay Lobo, Secretary of SIGNIS India, gave a step by step tutorial on the processes of applying for funding to Propaganda Fide for communication projects. He also explained the process and the rationale on the funding. The Regional Secretaries presented their reports highlighting the work undertaken by various diocesan and regional centres.
The students of Nav Sadhana Kala Kendra, through songs, dance and drama highlighted the pros and cons of social media within the family and effectively communicated the message of being in control of social media rather than allowing social media to be the controller.
Bishop Lobo urged the delegates to respond and take a stand against fake news. He emphasized the need for the delegates to administer the antidote to falsehood and fake news by being communicators of truth. Highlighting the content of Pope Francis’ message on World Communications Day 2018 -- “The Truth Will Set You Free” – the Bishop exhorted the delegates to be ‘ambassadors of Good News’ and be the ‘truth serum’ in the world.
Fr Suresh Mathew, Editor of Indian Currents through an informative presentation titled, ‘Good News vs Fake News -- Modern Areopagus at the Service of the Church,’ exposed the mainstream ‘propaganda’ media. “In the thirst to be the first, truth has been sacrificed on the altar of breaking news,” he said.
He said political parties have understood the impact of “seeing is believing” and have been quick to jump on the bandwagon of social media, WhatsApp in particular, and have capitalised on the use of social media for propagation of their political agendas. They have now become “factories of disinformation” and “promoters of fake news”.
Fr. Suresh urged the Church communicators to look at the idea of being a prophet in this age, “ one who announces the good news but is fearless in denouncing all that is wrong in the country/church”.
The delegates also formed smaller groups and reflected on how to network and exercise the Church’s prophetic calling.
Bishop Thekethecheril, during the Holy Mass on the third day, invited the delegates to reflect if the use of social media has made us reclusive social media hermits.
The session on Day 3, once again animated by Fr. Suresh, invited the delegates to reflect on the idea of ‘political or constitutional catechism’. Fr. Suresh highlighted how we as a nation were moving towards an understanding of nationalism over patriotism and how we were slowly moving away from being a democracy to being a theocracy. He also exposed the five years of Modi government to the delegates.
The interactive session with Fr. Suresh invited the group to reflect on 5 questions. These questions were based on the inputs of Fr. Suresh as well as the experience at the grassroots. What came out strongly from the presentation of the secretaries of these groups was the need for a permanent centre and infrastructure to respond to the changing political scenario in the country.
(Published on 18th March 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 12)