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Vatican encourages youth participation in pre-synod meeting via facebook

World Youth Day in Krakow Poland on 6 July 2016. Credit: Jeff Bruno/CNA

VATICAN CITY – As the pre-synod gathering on youth approaches, Vatican organisers are inviting young people around the globe to join in the discussion through Facebook groups in six different languages.

The 2018 Synod of Bishops on Youth, Faith, and Vocational Discernment will take place this October, but a pre-synod meeting with 315 young people from around the world will take place in Rome from March 19-24.

“With this path the Church wishes to listen to the voices, feelings, faith and even the doubts and critiques of the youth,” Pope Francis said in announcing the pre-synod event.

The goal is to hear from youth worldwide about their lives, situations and challenges, in order to prepare for the gathering of bishops on the topic this fall.

For those unable to attend the pre-synod meeting, Facebook groups have been set up  in six languages for Catholics to share their views. The Facebook groups, which were opened about a month ago, will close on March 16.

All young adults ages 16-29 are invited to virtually participate in the pre-synod meeting. After being accepted into the Facebook group, people will have an opportunity to answers questions which will be summarised and presented to the Holy Father.

To participate, members must have an individual profile, not a page representing an organization, group, or cause. The answers to the questions must also be limited to 200 words or a one-minute video sent to WhatsApp at (+39 342 601 5596).

One question discusses “the vocational sense of life,” asking, “Is there a clear understanding in younger generations of their having a personal call and specific mission in the world?”

On Monday [Mar 19], the pre-synod meeting in Rome will begin with a question-and-answer session with Pope Francis. Then participants will break into groups to discuss a variety of themes, like volunteer work, technology, and politics.

At the end of the gathering, notes of the various discussions will be gathered into one comprehensive concluding document, which will be presented to Pope Francis and used as part of the “Instrumentum Laboris,” or “working document,” of the October synod.

The March event will also include opportunities for prayer, such as praying the Way of the Cross while touring the Roman catacombs of San Callisto, as well as entertainment. Palm Sunday Mass will conclude the week, celebrated by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Square.

The focus of the event is divided into three parts: youth in the world, vocational discernment, and pastoral action.

Youth in the world will focus on defining who the younger generations are and what the culture is around them. The gathering will also discuss the choices the youth have made.

Second, the pre-synod meeting will consider how young adults respond to faith and vocations. It will analyse different vocational paths, the gifts of discernment, and how the Church may best accompany young adults.

Third, it hopes to encourage an inclusive pastoral environment where young people are responsibly involved in the community. It will explore possible tools and places, physical and digital, to aid the faith life of young people.

“This is a step the Church is making to listen to all youth,” said Stella Marilene Nishimwe, a young Burundi woman living in Italy who will be a participant to the pre-synod gathering.

“It will give us an opportunity to say everything that we think. This is an opportunity that we must really take.” – CNA/EWTN News

Conference addresses Catholic journalism, fake news, and a ‘post-truth’ era

LOURDES, France – Last week hundreds of Catholic media experts from all over the world gathered to discuss the problem of “fake news” and the challenge of reporting in what has been dubbed by some as the “post-truth” era.

With the advent of the internet and a sharp rise in the number of media outlets going online, competition to be the first to report a story is becoming more and more fierce.

The result is often a mass production and consumption of information with few adequate systems of checks and balances to verify what is being published. Pressure is high to compromise fact-checking for the sake of staying on top of a rapidly changing news cycle. Some entities intentionally offer misleading information to promote a certain agenda or sway public opinion.

Fake news can be hard to recognise because it often contains elements of truth, but is mixed with inaccurate or partial facts. This has led to confusion and a mistrust of information and the institutions providing it, experts say.

An analysis of this malady and proposals for a possible remedy were precisely the topic of discussion during this year’s Saint Francis de Sales Days conference, which took place on 24-26 Jan 2018 in Lourdes.

The conference, titled “Media and Truth,” was co-organised by the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications and French organisation the Federation of Catholic Media (FMC). Other entities, including nonprofit media organisation SIGNIS and the French bishops conference, also participated.

Speakers at the conference, who hold various positions in Catholic media, discussed the topic from philosophical, theological, political, economic and journalistic points of view.

Typically an event for French speaking media, this year the conference was open to international media and coincided with the Jan 24 publication of Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of Social Communications, which was dedicated to the topic of fake news.

In comments to CNA, Msgr Dario Edoardo Vigano, prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, said talking about fake news right now “is central because the panorama of media has changed.”

With traditional newspapers in crisis, he said, news is increasingly being spread by “a plethora of people who think of themselves as authoritative interpreters of contemporary life on the internet.”

This phenomenon, he said, “confuses presence, at times very widespread, with pertinence.” Because of this, addressing the problem of fake news “means having the journalistic profession at heart.”

Natasa Govekar, director of the Pastoral Theological Department of the Secretariat for Communications, said that while technology may appear to make communication easier than in past generations, “in reality it’s harder… because we are inundated with images, but without an education on images.”

“We don’t realise the power that they have and we perceive them as if there were just illustrations that accompany a text to make it more interesting,” she told CNA. “We don’t realise that they arrive much faster and much more directly than words,” and often words aren’t able “to ‘correct’ the choice of a mistaken image.”

Govekar, who spoke on the second day of the conference about the impact of images in communication, said Pope Francis is a prime example of how a picture can communicate more clearly than words.

She said whenever she looks at the Pope’s social media accounts, particularly his Instagram “Franciscus” profile, the comments always say things like “I willingly listen to your words because of how you said them,” or “I like to see your comments or a minute of your video because you always have this smile that captivates,” or “Even if I don’t understand your language, just the tone of your voice is consoling for me.”

“Even before understanding what he is saying and what he is inviting us to, we see it. The image, the gesture, speaks before the words arrive,” Govekar said, explaining that people don’t need to conduct a study on the image to understand what’s being communicated.

Helen Osman, president of SIGNIS, echoed Govekar’s sentiments. With the rise of digital media, she said, information can be spread more quickly than ever before, but “the challenge is to provide quality material that people find useful and helpful in their lives.”

Osman spoke to the conference about state of both secular and Catholic media in the United States, highlighting a decrease of trust in journalists. This, she said, is largely due to the fact that journalists are perceived to be out of touch with their audiences, and can also be attributed to social media being used to promote “yellow journalism.”

“There’s this growing acceptance or reference for conspiracy theories or concepts that aren’t even factually accurate,” Osman said, explaining that in her experience, she finds that this trend is often due to fear.

As Catholic journalists, “we know what answers those fears,” she said, so “why are we not presenting that in a way that makes sense to people and helps them sort through this?”

Other speakers also noted that the Catholic media have not been exempt from the troubling trends plaguing modern journalism.

In his opening speech, Vigano observed that Catholic media are not only victims of fake news, “but we are also authors,” even if unintentionally.

And sometimes, fake news is spread intentionally, when worldliness and the search for honour become a motivation, he said. “Fake news is often used to eliminate an enemy or, on the contrary but no worse, to valourise a person who may not have any human or professional maturity.”

In her comments to CNA, Govekar warned that digital platforms can be a new and effective way to share the Gospel, but can also be misused to promote agendas under the guise of evangelisation.

Likewise, Osman – who in her speech said Catholic media in the US at times tend to be overly apologetic and defensive in tone – said Catholic media can also fall victim to fake news and conspiracies.

“We’re human, so yes we struggle with that,” she said, adding that “it’s not easy, it’s not easy to hear someone say things or demonstrate beliefs that are in direct opposition to my beliefs.”

She cautioned against the assumption that “anyone who disagrees with the Church is to be demonized or cast out, or at the very least not heard.”

Pointing to the Pope’s message for the World Day of Communications, Osman said Francis continues to challenge Catholics in this area, particularly on the need to listen and dialogue with others.

Communications, she said, “is about listening and about trying to understand the other person. So perhaps we can take off the lens that ‘this is an attack on me’ and instead focus on the other person and say, help me understand why you think this way.”

To avoid fake news, “the first step is to lean in more, to listen more, and instead of feeling like we’ve got to counter every position or every new development.”

“It’s not a debate for me to win,” she said, but “it’s a moment for me to understand who you are.”

Similarly, Msgr Vigano, in his opening speech Jan 24, also highlighted dialogue and listening as the remedy to fake news.

“The most radical antidote is to allow oneself to be (purified) by the truth” and to have “the ability to listen,” which involves actively trying to understanding their perspective.

Communications, he said, “isn’t just a transmission of facts,” but a reciprocal exchange with others. Ultimately, it’s “an occasion to build bridges of peace.”

In his comments to CNA, Vigano said that to fight against fake news, Catholics can first of all avoid sharing news that is unfounded and unverified.

He stressed that problem of truth “is in all of society, not just among Catholics,” and said that members of the Church, “we have a greater responsibility” than non-believers to work for truth.

For her part, Govekar said sharing information and working in teams is an effective tool to avoid fake news. She noted that Pope Francis, in his message for communications day, invites journalists “to be guardians of the news.”

Communion and teamwork help with this, she said, because involving multiple people creates feedback and fosters dialogue.

To recognise fake news, Osman urged readers to “come at all information with a critical eye: who’s writing it, what is their motive, why is this important to me, how does it stack up against my experience?”

“I think it’s a matter of not reading something and saying ‘oh, obviously this is true,’ but to…verify everything. In other words, don’t assume that this person or this material is bad, but verify everything.” – CNA

New book reveals details of John Paul I’s death

ROME – A new book discloses details about the death of Pope John Paul I – who died in 1978 after just 33 days in office – and conclusive evidence that his death was the result of a heart attack, as previously thought, the CNA/EWTN News posted on its news portal on 6 Nov 2017.

In the book, called “Papa Luciani: Chronicle of a Death,” Vatican journalist Stefania Falasca presents thoroughly-researched evidence, including previously undisclosed medical reports, witness testimonies and Vatican documents, confirming original reports that the late pontiff died of a heart attack.

Albino Luciani, who was born on 17 Oct 1912 in Italy’s northern Veneto region, was elected Bishop of Rome at the age of 65. He took the name Pope John Paul to honour both of his immediate predecessors, St John XXIII and Bl Paul VI.

His term as pope was short-lived, however, as he died suddenly on 28 Sept 1978, after only 33 days in office. It has been presumed his death was caused by a heart attack, but a lack of published evidence has allowed conspiracy theories to surface, including insinuations of murder.

The book will be released Nov 7, which is said to coincide with the announcement that John Paul I’s cause for sainthood is moving forward. According to Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli, on Nov 7 or 8 the Vatican may announce Pope Francis’ approval of the “heroic virtue” of Albino Luciani, declaring him “venerable.”

This then opens the path for his beatification, which requires the approval of a miracle attributed to his intercession. Currently, the Vatican is examining two alleged miracles from the late Pope’s intercession.

In her book, Falasca, who also serves as vice-postulator of Luciani’s cause for sainthood, outlines evidence regarding John Paul I’s death, including how the evening before his death he suffered a severe pain in his chest for about five minutes, a symptom of a heart problem.

It occurred while sitting and praying vespers in the chapel with his Irish secretary, Msgr John Magee, before dinner. The pope rejected the suggestion to call for a doctor and the pain went away without treatment. His doctor, Renato Buzzonetti, was only informed of the event after his death.

Contrary to what was first announced by the Vatican, however, it wasn’t the pope’s secretaries who first found him the next morning, but a young sister.

When the elderly Sister Vicenza, who helped care for the pope, noticed that he had not come out of his room to take his morning coffee, she knocked on his door, opening it when he didn’t answer.

She immediately came back out in a state of shock, however, and called for the younger Sister Margherita Marin. In her sworn testimony, Sr Margherita relates that entering the room she “touched his hands, they were cold, and I saw, and was struck by the fact that his nails were a little dark.”

Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who is from the same region as John Paul I, contributed a preface to the book. In it he explains that while serving as Patriarch of Venice in 1975, Cardinal Luciani also suffered from a heart problem and was treated with anti-coagulants appearing to resolve it.

Sr Margherita, now 76 years old, said in her testimony that John Paul I did not seem tired or weighed down by his new responsibilities, but that she always saw him “calm, serene, full of trust, confident.”

Though his papacy was very short, requests to begin John Paul I’s beatification process followed shortly after his death and came from many parts of the world. These requests were formalized in 1990, with a document signed by 226 Brazilian bishops.

On 23 Nov 2003, he was declared a Servant of God by his immediate successor, Pope John Paul II.

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