Pope's Parting Message for Media

According to Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, one of the last official documents issued by the Pope was an Apostolic Letter "to those responsible for communications."

The Pontiff offered to issue the letter, which he did between hospital stays in late January, after talking with Archbishop Foley about the appropriate commemoration of the Feast of Saint Francis DeSales. Saint Francis is the Patron Saint of journalists.

The Pope offered to draw up some guiding principles for a world of rapidly advancing media technology, which he did in a letter issued Jan. 24.

It seemed a fitting farewell from the Pope who, like the first Catholic President, John F. Kennedy, was the first to bring his high office fully into the TV age.
Following are a couple of particularly telling passages from the Pope's letter.
The first is a general statement of principle, and the second a passage on media ownership that could have been drafted by Andrew Schwartzman of Media Access Project:

"The mass media can and must promote justice and solidarity according to an organic and correct vision of human development by reporting events accurately and truthfully, analyzing situations and problems completely, and providing a forum for different opinions. An authentically ethical approach to using the powerful communication media must be situated within the context of a mature exercise of freedom and responsibility, founded upon the supreme criteria of truth and justice."

And this on ownership:

"I would like to recall our attention to the subject of media access, and of co-responsible participation in their administration. If the communications media are a good destined for all humanity, then ever-new means must be found – including recourse to opportune legislative measures – to make possible a true participation in their management by all. The culture of co-responsibility must be nurtured."

CNN, where Foley talked of the appropriateness of the media-friendly Pontiff's letter, also managed to raise the level of its coverage through the commentary of Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, a New York Times columnist and friend of the Pope.

Monsignor Albacete, asked about the Pope's sense of humor, said that he had one time discussed with the Pontiff CNN's standing invitation to Albacete to talk about the Pope's legacy after he passed away.

The Pontiff had asked how Albacete could be so sure he wouldn't die first. Albacete replied that if he went first, the Pope should go on CNN and talk about him.

Albacete also talked of the Pope's love of drama and poetry--the Pontiff was a former actor--and his belief that it was the purest way to communicate the love of God. "Now," Albacete said, the curtain is down and we wait for the reviews. But all I can say is 'Great Show, Great Show,' and 'thanks.'

The full text of the letter can be found at :

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.