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‘The world needs the saving message of the Gospel more than ever’

Greg Erlandson

Strong voice: Greg Erlandson.

BRISBANE Archbishop Mark Coleridge has told a Catholic communications conference in Brisbane the Church has to find its distinctive voice if it was to make a contribution to Australian society.

Archbishop Coleridge said there needed to be a “communications conversion”, and challenged Catholic journalists and communications specialists from dioceses across the country to take a lead role.

“… In the end our voice has to be the voice of Jesus,” he said.

“So how do we speak with the voice of Jesus in the great cacophony of contemporary communication?”

Archbishop Coleridge’s question capped off three days of discussion and workshops about communicating hope and trust – whether it be through Catholic newspapers and websites, parish newspapers, or reaching out through podcasts and social media.

Keynote speaker, the Washington-based director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service Greg Erlandson, said the Church suffered from a “plethora of own goals, self-inflicted wounds from corruption, abuse and failures of leadership”.

“At times when the world needs the saving message of the Gospel more than ever, at a time of division, greed and pervading spiritual drift … the Church seems paralysed by its own crises,” he said.

“And at a time when we have a Pope who from the first days of his pontificate has encouraged the Church to take risks rather than turn inward, we have turned inward, beset by scandal polarisation by our own doubts and divisions.

“We are in the upper room again, behind closed doors, fearful, distrusting, waiting.”

Mr Erlandson said it was the challenge of Catholic journalists to “participate in the renewal of our Church”.

“People thirst for authenticity,” he said, stressing that fair, Catholic journalism should be a mission of witness.

Mr Erlandson said Catholic media was capable of inspiring.

“The Church needs a voice to tell stories that are not being told well,” he said.

“Catholic press in part, and Catholic media in general, remains the primary source of adult faith formation. It needs to be intentional in its role.

“It needs to form; to inform; and to inspire.”

The conference heard from educator and storyteller Theresa Ardler, a Gweagal Aboriginal woman from the Eora region on the south coast of New South Wales, who shared one of her ancestral dreaming stories.

“These creation stories connect Aboriginal people with thousands of years of history,” she said, observing how the story closely resembled a creation story from the Bible.

“Catholicism nurtured me and gave me a vision.”

The conference heard that one practical way to bring hope was by telling stories about everyday people – bearing witness to their sufferings, struggles with faith, life journeys – and, through this, inviting readers and viewers to see their own situation and relationship with Christ.

The Australian Catholic bishops’ delegate for media Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli attended throughout the three-day conference, reminding Catholic communicators of the importance of living with hope.

“The one who hopes, who has hope, has been granted the gift of new life,” he said.

“Hope is faith disposed towards the future. And making all the difference in the present.”

Mr Erlandson also explained how the Church crises could serve to strengthen individual faith.

“This mire we are facing serves one purpose – to turn us back to the Lord,” he said.

“If we are to bring hope to a despairing world we must first participate in the renewal and purification of ourselves and our Church.

“This reformation, this purification starts with Christ.”

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