VATICAN CITY — We would like to think the two events were connected, but they really weren't.
On Nov. 30, publisher and editor-in-chief Father Owen Kearns presented the Register to Pope John Paul II during an audience in Rome.
One week later, the Holy Father spoke in another context about the mission of Catholic weekly newspapers.
“He could have been speaking about the Register,” Father Kearns said. And, in a way, he was.
John Paul II appealed to Catholic newspapers to be agents of the “civilization of love” when he met with Italian journalists Dec. 4.
“The contribution of Catholic journalists is more precious than ever today, both at the pastoral as well as the cultural and social level,” the Pope said during an audience with 200 participants from the assembly of the Italian Federation of Catholic Weeklies.
“Thank you for the service that you offer, with your newspaper publications, to building a civilization of love,” the Holy Father said.
According to the Pope, Catholic weeklies “breathe into families, parishes and cities the Christian values that form a great part of the spiritual patrimony of the Italian people.”
“I am thinking, in particular, of the protection of human life in its integrity; of marriage and the family, which in a misunderstood culture of ‘personal rights’ tends to denature; I am thinking, finally, of the values of truth, justice and solidarity,” he said.
“Continue resolutely to proclaim the Gospel of truth and of hope from those pulpits which your diocesan weeklies are, remaining always open to the wide perspectives of the universal Church,” the Pope said.
Father Kearns said the Pope's words describe the mission of the Register.
“There's no such thing as neutral media,” he said. “Every media outlet has a point of view that shapes how they present the news. Anybody who thinks that The New York Times and CBS, for example, are objective and impartial needs to take remedial classes on the media.”
The Catholic media, while not giving in to a mistaken notion of objectivity, should be more fair and balanced than its secular counterpart, Father Kearns said.
“Certain media are masters at presenting those with principled stands as conservative and hopelessly out of touch with the direction of contemporary culture,” he said. “Those who abandon the truth only to cave in to media and political pressure are presented as courageous and enlightened. Catholic media have more to contribute: the wisdom of the Church. Truth and grace are more powerful than any sophisticated media manipulation.”
Father Kearns said the Pope was calling the Catholic media to join the New Evangelization.
“If Catholic media were to wake up, en masse, to their mission to promote the New Evangelization, then we would have a far greater impact on the culture,” he said. “Catholic media can have a disproportionate impact on the culture, precisely because of the one they ultimately represent: Jesus Christ, ‘the more powerful one.’”
“The Holy Father blessed the Register,” Father Owen Kearns said, “and with it, the staff of Circle Media, our writers and readers, and the donors who make it all possible.”
Before taking leave of journalists at the Dec. 4 gathering, John Paul II gave them two pieces of advice.
“To be able to carry out your mission fully, pay attention first of all that you yourselves are not lacking the necessary spiritual food of prayer and of an intense sacramental life,” he said.
“Be concerned as well with enriching your ethical and cultural formation, so that your convictions are kept in harmony with the Gospel and are not diverted by the prevailing pernicious tendencies of a certain modern culture,” the Pope added.
Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, also addressed the assembly.
He expressed his closeness to the participants and mentioned that he was once director of a U.S. diocesan newspaper.
“People need sources of information on the Catholic Church that are complete and authentic,” he said. “Catholics must be constantly updated on the teaching of the Church and on the way it adapts in our life of today.”
Father Kearns agreed: “That's our weekly mission.”