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Euro-Mediterranean Province of the Society of Jesus
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Communication: A New Culture

General Congregation 34 - Decree 15

[385] 1. A road and a call. Our Father Ignatius identified the cultural shift of his time: the passage from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Recognizing the values of the emerging culture, with its concern for individuals and their spiritual growth, Ignatius oriented the Society of Jesus towards the future. He knew how to integrate Gospel values and traditional cultural values with this new culture. Jesuits today are called to understand the changes that are occurring at the end of this 20th century: the proliferation of electronic media and the so– called information revolution, as well as the new ways of learning and knowing that accompany them. This world of communication develops what is widely identified as a new culture, one that is non–linear, image- oriented, intuitive and affective in its understanding of the world.

[386] 2. Ambiguity. For all its marvels, this new world characterized by an exponential development of the means of communication is filled with ambiguities. Its media and language are often used in manipulative and undemocratic ways for negative and ephemeral ends. In addition, it often propagates a materialist or consumer- dominated mentality that fails to promote genuine human growth or make people receptive to the Gospel message. Such false values sometimes threaten even our own Jesuit life. It is therefore necessary for us to become critical consumers and, even more, critical practitioners of social communication.

[387] 3. Sector or dimension? Communication in the Society has usually been considered a sector of apostolic activity, a field for some specialists who have often felt isolated or on the margin of the apostolic body. The Society must rather acknowledge that communication is not a domain restricted to a few Jesuit professionals, but a major apostolic dimension of all of our apostolates. Clearly, not all Jesuits need to be directly engaged in media. Nevertheless, every Jesuit, in order to be effective, must be aware of and well-versed in the language and symbols, as well as the strengths and weaknesses, of modern communication culture. This is to create a shift in our awareness, realizing that the new communication environment is a milieu in which large numbers of people can be reached and enriched, and where literacy, knowledge and solidarity can be fostered.

[388] 4. The service of faith. The proposed cultural renewal will allow Jesuits more effectively to share the faith they are called to serve. Sometimes this will involve the direct proclamation of the Gospel and its values to large groups through mass media, or to smaller groups through group media. At other times a more indirect approach might be taken to awaken individuals to a better personal assimilation of the Christian message. In all cases this will require us to use language understood by both communication professionals and the inhabitants of the global village. Jesus, who himself communicated his Father’s message through parables, miracles and acts of compassion, must be our model.

[389] 5. Justice in communication. Communication is a powerful tool which must be used in the promotion of justice in our world. But we must also look critically at the authoritarian methods and unjust structures of communication and information organizations themselves. The promotion of justice within communication calls for the coordinated action of Christians and other people of good will in several areas. Freedom of the press and information must be promoted in countries where they are non–existent or threatened by state control or ideological manipulation. An equitable flow of communication between industrialized and developing countries needs to be established. At present, the rich countries dominate the world with their information, films and television programmes. The voices and images of less powerful nations and cultures are largely absent from the global village. All Jesuits, especially philosophers, theologians, social scientists, those directly involved in the promotion of justice, as well as those involved in the production of creative works, should be conversant in communication ethics.

[390] 6. Media education. In the new media culture, it is important to educate media users to understand and make creative use of communication techniques and language, not only as individuals but also as participants in the social dialogue. Media education has as its goal a critical understanding which gives people the ability to sift out distortion, to identify hidden messages, and to make informed choices about media consumption. Such understanding returns power to the consumer, and confers freedom from media manipulation and domination. Jesuits educators must be among the best “media educated people” in order to participate in this broad educational task.

[391] 7. People-oriented media. The language of the new media culture can be spoken using simple and low- cost tools. Radio, especially used for popular education, is often an effective medium. More broadly, all Jesuits should learn to use alternative media such as posters, video and audio cassettes, and compact disks, in their apostolic work. In some circumstances folk media, street plays, puppetry, or images in liturgy could be appropriate instruments for evangelization.

[392] 8. Amission: Vatican Radio.In response to the invitation from the Holy Father given at the beginning of this General Congregation,the Society commits itself to continue serving the universal Church through Vatican Radio. It is a concrete means for the Society to implement its mission to serve the faith and promote justice in the field of communication, within a framework of international collaboration.

[393] 9. To understand and to speak the language. We must provide well– organized communication curricula for all Jesuits in formation; we should also provide communication training as part of ongoing formation. In many places, the Society has already begun to provide suitable training, integrated into the various stages of formation. These efforts must be sustained and, where lacking, adequate steps should be taken to ensure such training. Formation in communication will, among its important goals, ensure critical knowledge of the rhetoric of this new culture, foster an appreciation of its aesthetic dimension, develop the skills required for teamwork and for the effective use of media and information technology for the apostolate. Early in their formation, young Jesuits who show creative talent for communication work could be encouraged and enabled to pursue specialized training. Care should be taken to help Jesuits during their studies to integrate professional requirements and sound theological knowledge with the exigencies of religious life. The Society’s Secretariat for Social Communication (JESCOM), among its other tasks, is to serve as a resource in developing communication programmes for Jesuit formation.

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