Pontifical Council for Social Communications celebrates 40 years

 The Pontifical Council for Social Communications, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The council's annual assembly takes place in the Vatican from March 8 to 12 on the theme "'Inter Mirifica': Forty Years Later." Cardinal Eugenio Araujo Sales, archbishop emeritus of Rio de Janeiro, an original member of the council, will preside at the opening Mass next Monday in the chapel of the Teutonic College. A celebratory dinner will follow. According to council president, Archbishop John Foley: "each member and each consultor of the pontifical council has been asked to make a presentation of the most significant event or events in communications in the last forty years and to express a 'dream' for the next decade in communications. These reflections may be published later and may also be used as a source document to mark the 40th anniversary of "'Inter Mirifica' and of this council. There will also be discussion of a proposed document on 'Spirituality and Cinema'." "Inter Mirifica: Decree on the Media of Social Communications," a Vatican Council II document, was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on December 4, 1963. The title "Inter Mirifica" comes from the first two words of the document in Latin which mean "among the wonderful." The first paragraph of this Decree states, in fact: "Among the wonderful technological discoveries which men of talent, especially in the present era, have made with God's help, the Church welcomes and promotes with special interest those which have a most direct relation to men's minds and which have uncovered new avenues of communicating most readily news, views and teachings of every sort. The most important of these inventions are those media which, such as the press, movies, radio, television and the like, can, of their very nature, reach and influence, not only individuals, but the very masses and the whole of human society, and thus can rightly be called the media of social communication." The current Pontifical Council for Social Communications has had a number of precursors over the decades. The first such office set up within the Vatican was the Pontifical Commission for the Study and Ecclesiastical Evaluation of Films on Religious and Moral Subjects, which was established on January 30, 1948. Several months later this office, which was staffed by a president and four members and housed in a single room, was renamed the Pontifical Commission for Educational and Religious Films. Its task was to examine educational and pastoral problems of the nascent audio-visual era. The commission was replaced by the Pontifical Commission for Cinema and its statutes approved by Pope Pius XII in January 1952. Its staff was increased and office space enlarged. A further name change took place in 1954 when it became the Pontifical Commission for the Cinema, Radio and Television, following which it took a more active role in preparing, implementing and participating in international Catholic congresses. On February 22, 1959, Pope John XXIII, in his Motu Proprio "Boni pastoris" linked this office to the Secretariat of State. In June 1960 the Preparatory Secretariat for the Press and the Entertainment World was set up within the pontifical commission as one of the 12 preparatory organs for Vatican Council II. "Inter Mirifica" was the result of the work and studies of this office. Pope Paul VI, in his April 2, 1964 Motu proprio "In fructibus multis," transformed the commission into the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications, entrusting it with the responsibility of delving into and studying problems in the worlds of the cinema, radio, and television. Pope Paul personally attended the first plenary of this new commission on September 28, 1964. With the Apostolic Constitution "Pastor Bonus" promulgated by John Paul II on June 28, 1988, this commission was renamed and on March 1, 1989, it officially became the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Archbishop Foley was appointed president on April 9, 1984. Documents produced by the pontifical council over the last forty years include: The Church and Internet (2002); Ethics in Internet (2002); Ethics in Communications (2000); Ethics in advertising (1997); 100 Years of Cinema (1995-1996); Aetatis Novae (1992); Criteria for ecumenical and inter-religious cooperation in communications (1989); Pornography and violence in the communications media: a pastoral response (1989); Guide to the training of future priests concerning the instruments of social communications (1986); An appeal to all contemplative Religious (1973); Communio et Progressio (1971); Regulations for the audio-visual representation of ceremonies and of locations directly dependent on the Holy See (1965).

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