Four kings, six queens, seventy heads of state, the Secretary General of the United Nations, representatives of five major world religions and over a hundred from other religious denominations attended the funeral of Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s together with about a 300,000 mourners.
In five continents, humanity surging into hundreds of millions, if not over a billion, witnessed his funeral broadcast live on cable TV, radio and the internet. In the Philippines, the widespread cable and the DTH (direct-to-home) Dream TV carried the three-hour ceremony even to outlaying barrios. It was unprecedented. It was the power of media at its best now at the service of a great man who made wise use of the various tools of modern communications to proclaim the gospel message. From the onset of his Papacy, he sowed the seeds of the Christian message at the footpath of mass communications. Now it was time to reap a hundredfold.
A little over two months before he died, John Paul II issued an Apostolic Letter The Rapid Development, for those responsible for communications. “… the Church,” he says, “is not only called upon to use the mass media to spread the Gospel but, today more than ever, to integrate the message of salvation into the ‘new culture’ that these powerful means of communication create and amplify. It tells us that the use of the techniques and the technologies of contemporary communications is an integral part of its mission in the third millennium.”
Ironically enough, while the Vatican has been harping repeatedly on the use of media as an integral tool of evangelization since “Inter Mirifica” through “Aetatis Novae,” the Catholic media in the Philippines and, indeed, the whole of Asia, has conveniently remained at the sidelines of evangelization efforts.