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Posted April 30, 2003

Book: Towards a Pastoral Approach to Culture
Author: Pontifical Council for Culture
Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 00120 Citta Del Vaticano

Excerpt from Introduction:

The time the Gospel was first preached, the Church has known the process of encounter and engagement with cultures,” for “it is one of the properties of the human person that he [or she] can achieve true and full humanity only by means of culture.”

. . .Faced with the challenges of “our times which are both momentous and fascinating” the Pontifical Council for Culture would like to share some convictions and practical suggestions. They are the result of several exchanges on a renewed pastoral approach to culture; thanks particularly to fruitful collaboration with Bishops, as diocesan pastors, and their co-workers in this field of apostolic work as a privileged point of encounter with Christ’s message. For al culture “is an effort to ponder the mystery of the world and in particular of the human person: it is a way of giving expression to the transcendent dimension of human life. The heart of every culture is its approach to the greatest mystery: the mystery of God.: The decisive challenge of a pastoral approach to culture, for “a faith that does not become culture is a faith not fully accepted, not entirely thought out, not faithfully lived.”

The suggestions offered respect Pope John Paul II’s urgent request to the Pontifical Council for Culture: “You must help the Church to respond to these fundamental questions for the cultures of today: how is the message of the Church accessible to the new cultures, to contemporary forms of understanding and of sensitivity? How can the Church of Christ make itself understood by the modern spirit, so proud of its achievements and at the same time so uneasy for the future of the human family.”

Excerpt from Book:

Mass media and information technology

“the first Areopagus of the modern age is the world of communications, which is unifying humanity and turning it into what is known as a “global village.” The means of social communication have become so important as to be for many the chief means of information and education, of guidance an inspiration in their behavior as individuals, families and within society at large . . . The very evangelization of modern culture depends to a great extent on the influence of the media . . . It is also necessary to integrate that message into the “new culture” created by modern communications. This is a complex issue, since the “new culture” originates not just from whatever content is eventually expressed, but from the very fact that there exist new ways of communicating, with new languages, new techniques and a new psychology.” The advent of the information society is a real cultural revolution: television, for instance, transforms language and presents new icons. This “involves a fundamental reshaping of the elements by which people comprehend the world around them and verify and express what they comprehend . . . . The media can be used to proclaim the Gospel or to reduce it to silence in human hearts.” The “live” information provided by the mass media lessens the impact of distance and time but, more importantly, it affects the way things are perceived: what people come to know is not reality as such, but what they are shown. So the constant repetition of selected items of information involves a decline in critical awareness and this is a crucial factor in forming what is considered as public opinion.

The influence of the media which has no frontiers, especially as regards advertising, calls upon Christians to be creative and innovative, so as to reach hundreds of thousands of people who spend a significant amount of time every day watching television or listening to the radio programs. Television and radio can be a means of cultural formation and development, and also of evangelization, a way of reaching out to those who have no point of contact with the Gospel or the Church in secularized societies. The pastoral approach to culture must provide a positive answer to John Paul II’s critical question: “Is there still a place for Christ in the traditional media?”

Table of Contents:

I. Faith and Culture: Some Guidelines
The Good News of the Gospel for cultures
Evangelization and inculturation
A pastoral approach to culture

II. Challenges and Opportunities
A new age in human history
Runaway urbanization and cultural uprooting
Mass media and information technology
National identities and minorities
New “Areopagus” situations and traditional cultural areas
Ecology, science, philosophy and bioethics
The family and education
Art and leisure
Sects and new religious movements

III. Concrete Proposals
Primary pastoral objectives
Religions and “the religious”
“Ordinary” ways of experiencing the faith, popular piety, the parish
Educational institutions
Centers of theological formation
Catholic cultural centers
Mass media and religious formation
Science, technology, bioethics and ecology
Art and artists
Cultural heritage and religious tourism
Young people

Conclusion: Towards a cultural approach to culture renewed by the power of the Spirit