Three years after his election to the See of Peter, Benedict XVI's relationship with the press has markedly developed, and the Pope's U.S. trip reflects the newness, said the Vatican spokesman.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, this change is due in large part to the Holy Father's positive vision of the press and the service it offers.
The spokesman affirmed this today at 2008 Catholic Media Convention taking place in Toronto, Canada, through Friday, on the theme "Proclaim It From the Rooftops."
The conference has gathered some 500 members of the Catholic Press Association and the Catholic Academy for Communication Arts Professionals -- professionals in the fields of Catholic print and audiovisual communications, as well as Catholic communications and public relations directors -- for the purpose of spiritual, economic and professional development.
Father Lombardi, who also directs Vatican Radio and Vatican Television, revealed elements of this attitude. He noted that, like Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI meets with the press directors after each of his trips to evaluate the impact his message has had.
"This approach impresses me deeply," the priest confessed. It speaks about the Pope's "awareness that the media are fundamental and necessary for spreading any message."
Reviewing the Holy Father's trip to the United States, Father Lombardi attributed the success above all to the Pope's "cordial and positive approach toward the American people."
"He understood how to express the values on which the history of the American people has been based since the beginning: love and respect for freedom and religious experience, and the desire to build a society that welcomes and respects others and their beliefs," he said.
Benedict XVI prefers to always use the language of proposing, and not of condemning, the spokesman added. "It is no accident that the Pope's first encyclical was on love, the second on hope. No accident either that his first book was about Jesus, who shows us the face of God."
When he speaks to young people too, Father Lombardi affirmed, "Benedict XVI insists that ours is not a religion of prohibitions, of 'no's.' Rather, it is based on the great 'yes' of love."
The Pope does this work, the Jesuit continued, with trust in reason and patience in communicating strong messages. For example, he said, Benedict XVI did not give his speech to the United Nations "for show."
"He didn't use language meant to fire the imagination or cause a sensation. He wanted to plumb the depths, to affirm basic principles," he said. "This is the answer the Pope gives every day to relativism and subjectivism."
And, Father Lombardi continued, the Pontiff does not avoid difficult problems "but has the courage to tell the truth," as he did when he spoke of the sexual abuse and as he showed when he had a special meeting with the victims.
"The Pope understood that to heal the wounds of the past, there was need for the kind of sincerity that is absolutely devoid of uncertainty. We are all grateful to Pope Benedict for this," the spokesman said.
Finally, Father Lombardi attributed the development of the Holy Father's relation with the press to the fact that the Pope "is himself," without trying to hide behind an image.
"With time, the media is getting to know him better," he said. "Not only is his teaching deep and coherent, seen up-close, he is a kind, humble and gentle person. Sometimes this has proven a most effective force."
When he visited the mosque in Istanbul, Father Lombadi mentioned as an example, during an extremely delicate trip in search of dialogue with the Muslim world after the discussions and misunderstandings surrounding his Regensburg speech, he showed that "an image is worth dozens of theoretical statements about respect for Islam."
"Benedict is no longer just a great teacher," the Jesuit concluded. "More and more he is becoming an engagingly human pastor."
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