Pope says Catholic newspapers have ‘irreplaceable’ role

Heh, it wasn’t me who said it, it was the pope. And remember that whole infallibility thing? 

All kidding aside, I naturally took a personal interest in Pope Benedict XVI’s recent remarks to a gathering of the Italian Federation of Catholic Weeklies, which represents nearly 200 newspapers. 

According to a report by John Thavis, Rome bureau chief of Catholic News Service, the pope said Catholic newspapers perform an “irreplaceable” role in helping Catholics form their consciences and “give voice to a point of view that reflects Catholic thinking on all ethical and social questions.” 

“Catholic newspapers not only fulfill the important task of providing information, but also perform an irreplaceable formative function” in the education of “critical and Christian consciences,” Pope Benedict said. 

In that, they’re assisting the fundamental purpose of the Church, he said. 

“The mission of the Church consists in creating the conditions so that this meeting with Christ can be realized,” the pope said. “Cooperating in this task, the communications media are called to serve the truth with courage, to help public opinion see and read reality from an evangelical viewpoint.” 

Even amid all the justifiable enthusiasm for new forms of digital communication, the pope said the printed newspaper retains a particular effectiveness because of its simplic-ity and widespread distribution. 

Here in North America, the Catholic Press Association estimates that its roughly 240 newspaper and magazine members (which include OSV Newsweekly and other OSV periodicals like The Priest magazine and The Catholic Answer) have a combined print circulation of 11.4 million copies (each of which, in most cases, gets seen by more than one pair of eyes). 

That’s not bad, but the trend of the past few years is troubling. I cannot tell you how frequently I hear about another diocesan newspaper cutting back its production schedule or closing shop completely. The economy is largely to blame, but also the poor state of diocesan finances in some places. And some Catholic newspapers may have hit hard times because the quality of their content was not what it used to be. 

I note, too, that in the past year or so, OSV Newsweekly has become the only remaining major Catholic national weekly newspaper. Even though I’m pretty competitive, I find no reason to gloat. But it does make me very grateful to you our readers, both for your loyalty and for your engagement with the Faith and seeking to live it in a flawed world. 

On that note, Pope Benedict made a point of telling members of the Catholic press that a prerequisite of their success was their own “cultivat[ion of] a constant and deep bond to Christ.” Please don’t forget to mention us and our work in your prayers. 

I look forward to hearing from you at feedback@osv.com.