TORONTO — Plenty of things to talk about on Day 1 of the annual Catholic Media Convention. In fact, too much (as is usually the case at these meetings).
The day got off to a flying start with a message from Pope Benedict, which may have been unprecedented. Some here thought that this was the first time a papal message has been prepared for such a gathering. (Remember, one of the main hosts of the meeting, the Catholic Press Association, has been around for more than 85 years.) Papal messages like this are common when the bishops of a country gather, such as the annual fall general meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, but not for a seemingly “routine” gathering such as this one, no matter how large (and there are 475 people here).
The message was read to the gathering by Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, who now hold the post formerly held by Cardinal John P. Foley, a former Catholic press editor in Philadelphia. And as our story today notes, Archbishop Celli had his own words of wisdom for the assembled journalists:
In a speech to the convention, Archbishop Celli said today’s rapid technological and cultural changes challenge Catholic journalists to “deep reflection and innovative thinking so that we can better reach out to others and better communicate the good news to all humanity — whether practicing Catholics or non-believers.”
Also speaking today was Margaret Somerville, a Canadian ethicist who spoke about the importance of “word warriors” framing ethical debates on such issues as stem-cell research or modern reproductive techniques. She reminded the journalists that “a few words can turn the tide” and encouraged her audience to give readers and viewers “the words to say” to help the common good of a society.
But I’ll let some of my colleagues here further explain that later. (UPDATE: Here’s the full story.)
UPDATE: Since this was the first convention since Archbishop Foley’s elevation to cardinal last November, he was feted this evening at the convention’s opening dinner by several past and present Catholic press and broadcast leaders for his valuable contributions to the cause of Catholic journalism as editor in Philadelphia, as an active member of the Catholic Press Association, and for his service to the church as head of the social communications council in Rome. With his characteristic, self-deprecating humor, he responded with a line he often has used in the past, but which bears repeating here — he said it felt great to be “canonized without the inconvenience of dying.”