The Church lives her life in the midst of the whole community of man. She must therefore maintain contacts and lines of communication in order to keep a relationship with the whole human race. This is done both by giving information and by listening carefully to public opinion inside and outside the Church. Finally, by holding a continuous discussion with the contemporary world, she tries to help in solving the problems that men face at the present time. (Communio et Progressio, 114)
The Office of Communications of the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia was established in November 2013 by Bishop Paul Hinder as an aid to enable timely and smooth flow of information, news and vital communication within the Vicariate and to the general public.
“wearing for shoes on your feet the eagerness to spread the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:16)
The above passage from the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians forms the rule and code of conduct for the Office of Communications in the Vicariate of Southern Arabia. The Office will assist the Catholic Church in the states of UAE, Oman and Yemen to be an effective bearer of the Gospel of peace within its own members and to be a sign of the peace of Christ for the citizens of the states in which she resides.
The last thirty years have seen a transformation of media using digital computer technology for distribution and on-demand access of media, such as the internet, websites, computer multimedia etc. Another phenomenon that has taken place is the evolution of social networks which revolve largely around these new media.
The rise of new media has led to the occurrence of globalization, an expansion of activities beyond the boundaries of particular nation states, thus making physical location much less significant for social relationships. New media has also proved its potential as a tool for social change, increased interactivity amongst peoples of different languages and backgrounds and has caused the wake of several new industries in its path such as interactive advertising and interactive public relations.
Studies conducted have shown that with the advent of technology that allows 24-hour media access, the amount of time young people spend with entertainment media and social networks has risen dramatically. Today’s generation of teenagers and young adults represent a new breed of Internet users, often called “digital natives” for growing up alongside computers, the Internet and digital media. The advent of smart phones, which equal about 25% of the overall mobile market, has fuelled the social networking phenomenon.
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND NEW MEDIA
“Yet, as much as the world of the media may at times seem at odds with the Christian message, it also offers unique opportunities for proclaiming the saving truth of Christ to the whole human family. What is therefore needed in our time is an active and imaginative engagement of the media by the Church. Catholics should not be afraid to throw open the doors of social communications to Christ, so that his Good News may be heard from the housetops of the world!”
(Pope John Paul II)
The Catholic Church has always been on the forefront in presenting the triad of truth, goodness and beauty to the world. Since it possesses the “great mystery of religion”, God made visible in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ (1 Tim 3:14), the Church has always had the greatest message to proclaim. The person of Jesus Christ has always made Himself manifest through the Church in every age and every period as truth, goodness and beauty in such a way as to inspire the peoples of the world. Even in our own times, the Church again has to make the light of the Son of God, Jesus Christ shine through her. It is with such a vision that the Church embarks to light up the sphere of new media and new platforms of social communications - to enrich the media culture of transitory news with the Church culture of remembrance and to enrich the media culture of soulless entertainment with the Church culture of lasting joy.
THE VICARIATE OF SOUTHERN ARABIA AND NEW MEDIA
The Vicariate of Southern Arabia is one of the most complex bodies within the Catholic Church, especially because of its presence in the strategic area of the Middle East, spanning the geographies of three Middle Eastern countries and home to well over a hundred and fifty nationalities.
The Apostolic Vicar and the team of priests, women religious and numerous staff in the parish secretariats, liturgical ministries, catechetical programmes, family ministry services cater to the needs of the faithful distributed across the 15 parishes of the Vicariate. The majority of the faithful of the Vicariate are young and active people. The Vicariate is looking to enrich its mission in this sensitive region by using new media and emerging tools to reach out and maintain a living touch with all the members of its faithful, especially with those who are unable to attend Church services regularly due to various constraints, or have given up the practice of the faith simply because there is no one to keep in touch with them.
With the use of modern communication tools and services, the Vicar can easily be in touch with all the faithful of his Vicariate, and so can a Parish Priest be with his parishioners. Disseminating important information, from the Pastor to the parish priest, to various group leaders will be made very simple and effective, allowing them to reach the faithful using their preferred mode of communication, from texting to email to social networks. A very important advantage of some of these communication tools is that even people who do not have access to email can receive updates from the Vicariate/ Parish via text messages and smartphones, which are now becoming more and more popular.
OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS
Since public opinion exercises the greatest power and authority today in every sphere of life, both private and public, every member of society must fulfill the demands of justice and charity in this area. As a result, all must strive, through these media as well, to form and spread sound public opinion. (Inter Mirifica, 8)
It is with such an urgency of mission and recognizing the impact that different forms of communication, especially that of new media and social networks have on today’s generation that the Vicariate has made the decision to establish an Office of Communications.
The main aims of the Office of Communications will be to
- Effectively communicate with the faithful and between the various departments, parishes and staff of the Vicariate and to be a force in the development of sound public opinion
- Develop strategies and policies for effective communication and interaction with the faithful
- Develop and maintain relationships with the faithful of the Vicariate using effective networking tools
- Assist in the production of digital content which could assist the life of the faith
- Distribute such content to the faithful through effective channels
- Appoint and train resource persons in parishes who will lead communication initiatives