In an age when rapid advancements in social media are quickly and profoundly reshaping society, Signis Philippines and member organizations Jesuit Communications Foundation Inc. (JesCom), TV Maria, Catholic Media Network, Paulines, and Radio Veritas, organized the well-timed forum “Catholic Media in Challenging Times” held January 19, 2018 at the Lay Force Auditorium, San Carlos Seminary in Barangay Guadalupe, Makati City.
Role of social communications in evangelization
Framing his discussion on the 1963 Second Vatican Council official document InterMirifica, the event’s keynote speaker, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, emphasized the Catholic Church’s recognition of social communication’s great potential for evangelization.
“These means are signs of human genius and resourcefulness. The Church welcomes its potential to reach a community of faith that will share the Gospel, share whatever could be helpful in true human development, and what is good, beautiful and inspiring.”
In explaining how social communications must operate according to the norms of morality, Cardinal Tagle reaffirmed how shared forthright information enables people to fully participate in society and in the search for common good.
“There exists within human society a right to information about affairs which affect people individually and collectively. The matter to be communicated must always be true, and the manner of communication should be honorable and appropriate. In the gathering and publication of news, dignity must be held sacred.”
Present-day challenges faced by evangelizers
Meanwhile, Pasig Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara identified three main challenges of evangelizing in the fast-evolving world of social communication: courage not to compromise the freedom of telling the truth, collaboration of secular and catholic media and creativity in creating valuable content for public usage.
Adhering to the catholic media’s foundations of faith, morals and formation, Bishop Vergara urged media practitioners to “give priority to the truth” and “maintain respect for human persons who are subjects of the content”.
Speaking from his position as CBCP President for the Commission on Social Communications, Bishop Vergara cited the 2015 Papal Visit media coverage as a shining example of how “secular and catholic media can utilize each’s strengths in sharing informative and inspiring truth for common good.”
Bishop Vergara also highlighted how the Church can stand out amongst the wide array of voices in social media through creative, engaging strategies that present the Gospel.
“Any post should always be in line with evangelization. We must think of why we are present in social media and how we can make education, and fortifying relationships for the common good, our mission statement.”
Tackling the threat of fake news
Rounding out the panel discussion were social commentaries from Philippine Daily Inquirer Associate Editor John Nery and GMA-7 news anchor Howie Severino. Both veteran journalists underscored the magnitude of Pope Francis’ effort to tackle the global threat of fake news in his address for World Communications Day this coming May 2018.
In line with the Holy Father’s message of promoting a “journalism of peace” published on January 24, the feast day of St. Francis De Sales, patron saint of journalists, Nery acknowledged how journalists play a massive role in truthful communication and must therefore act as “responsible shepherds”.
In response to trolls, fake news and other challenges posed by the rise of digital communication, Severino commended how the “Church never withers away to be the voice of ordinary people”. As a founder of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Severino also encouraged the audience to “keep telling the truth…be discerning and uphold higher standards for what we believe.”
The three-hour long panel discussion was screened live via the TV Maria Facebook page and shared on the Jesuit Communications Facebook page (www.facebook.com/jescomph) and aired on the Radyo Veritas 846 AM station. JesCom Executive Director Fr. Emmanuel Alfonso, S.J. served as the forum’s Master of Ceremonies.
Photos by Roma Escaner of Jesuit Communications. For more photos, visit our photo gallery.