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SIGNIS World President: Catholic journalists must work together to shape the church's future

Daniel Seungsoo Han, President of the SWC2022 Organising Committee speaks at the opening of the sixth SIGNIS World Congress, Seoul, South Korea, on August 16, 2022. (Photo Signis Asia)

SIGNIS World President Helen Osman says Catholic journalists and communicators need to work with other people to shape the better future of the Church.

"I have heard stories of people who are knocking, waiting, seeking, and asking to have a role that is more than just showing up for an event or participating in prayer or donating money. They want to help shape the future of the Church," she said.

"To make the faith relevant and real, members of Signis invite others to walk with us. We invite them not just to cooperate but to collaborate, not just to follow but to be co-responsible, not just to be recognized but to be respected, not just to show up but to become engaged and enrich all who are present," she added.

Osman was speaking at the opening ceremony of the sixth SIGNIS World Congress 2022 at Jesuit-run Sogang University in Seoul, South Korea on August 16.

The August 16–19 event has the theme "Peace in the Digital World."

"Peace is a deep understanding that we are each necessary to build the body of Christ, to create a world in which every person’s human dignity is respected. It takes courage and faith to unclench our fists and to allow the spirit to move among us," she added.

On August 16, 2022, the opening ceremony began with a special performance by the ChangMu Dance Company, shining a light on the future (a message of hope and joy for the new world). The music was inspired by Catholic chants, classical music, and traditional Korean music. The performers represented the SIGNIS World Congress 2022 theme, "Peace in the Digital World," with newspapers. (Photo: Signis Asia)

SIGNIS is an abbreviation of "SIGN" and "IGNIS" (Latin for "fire"). SIGNIS' mission is to ‘engage with media professionals and support Catholic communicators in transforming cultures in the light of the Gospel by promoting human dignity, justice, and reconciliation.’

Paolo Ruffini, the Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, read out Pope Francis’ message for the SIGNIS World Congress.

In his congratulatory speech, Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taick of Seoul, joint honorary chairman, SIGNIS World Congress 2022, said that humanity has managed to face the challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic, adding, "It seemed that our gathering would be forever delayed. However, our desperate hearts—needing one another—allowed us to gather here. "

He also welcomed Catholic communicators from all over the world, both in person and online.

To allow others to participate who were not able to join us in person, organizers provided a zoom platform, YouTube and Metaverse.  

"This Congress serves as an opportunity for us to rethink people who are isolated from technology. As technology has evolved, we worry about the growing magnitude of the digital divide and the information divide. The technology divide creates and deepens conflict and confrontation, especially as the technology gap between generations can deepen generational differences," the prelate said.

"Technology should be used to benefit everyone, and we have to work together to enjoy digital technology together and be happy together. Due to the pandemic, it is to my regret that there are fewer face-to-face interactions as we see more non-face-to-face interactions," said Archbishop Peter.

According to him, the Church needs to play a role in advocating the attractiveness of human meetings and gatherings.

In order to do so, we have to make an effort to expand in our society the good values that the Church has. I would like to kindly ask Catholic journalists and communicators to take a lead in this effort," he added.

Due to the pandemic, people around the world have difficulties gathering together in one place to communicate. "I would like to thank our organizers for making this hybrid conference possible. So we can meet in person as well as online. Through this SIGNIS World Congress, we hope to go beyond the limits of space and share love and peace in God," he said.

In a welcome address, Daniel Seungsoo Han, President of the SWC2022 Organising Committee said, "The delegates would be able to make full use of the digital environment and be able to look into what we can do in terms of making use of digital media."

As many as 96 guests from six continents and 32 countries were present in person, and over 300 people and Catholic communicators from all over the world joined via YouTube, Zoom, and Metaverse.

Chun Byong-Keuk, deputy minister of culture, sports and tourism, congratulated everyone on a successful opening event.

Through journalism and the media, you have been part of executing the peace and the love of Christians all throughout the world. It is meaningful that we are holding this form of communication for the pursuit of peace in the digital age," he said.

"I sincerely hope that this Congress will be able to provide a basis to include many of those who are marginalized in the digital spaces and to create a community for the future," he added.

He also invited everyone to take the opportunity to visit the many cultural sites in Korea and get the most out of their schedule. 

On August 16, 2022, the Boys and Girls Choir from the Catholic Peace Broadcasting Corporation (CPBC), the SIGNIS World Congress' host broadcaster, sing the event's theme song: "Lord, we have gathered here." (Photo by Signis Asia)

Sogang University President, Jesuit Father Luke Sim Jong-hyeok, said to overcome the sense of isolation widely experienced by COVID-19, society has begun to pay attention to virtual reality, represented by the metaverse beyond the online space.

"People can actively communicate in the metaverse beyond the limitation of time and space and it is expected they will be able to experience a variety of new things that are difficult to achieve in reality," he said.

"These changes are being seen in education. In this metaverse space, a vast amount of information can be exchanged quickly and conveniently, and the participants can actively communicate. Active communication will naturally blur the boundaries between disciplines, and both students and professors will be able to broaden their horizons to other majors," he added.

Their university is concerned with those left behind, just like the topic of the congress, ‘hyperconnected yet alone.’ The priest said there are others who may feel isolated even in the age of multidirectional communication.

For the university, not only the development of technology, but they want to utilize their digital innovation capabilities in a way that enriches people’s lives.

The theme of the congress is in line with the values pursued by the university, making it even more meaningful, according to Father Luke.

He hoped that the World Congress at their university would be an opportunity to spread the will of God to the world by uniting the spirit of SIGNIS and Sogang.

SIGNIS (the World Catholic Association of Communication) is a non-profit Roman Catholic lay ecclesial movement for professionals in media communication, including the press, radio, television, cinema, video, media education, the internet, and new technology, held every four years.

It was founded in November 2001 by OCIC (International Catholic Organization for Cinema and Audiovisual) and Unda as an organization with representation from over 100 countries (International Catholic Association for Radio and Television). It also included UCIP in 2017. (International Catholic Union of the Press). - With inputs from Jennibeth Sabay


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