By James Parker
British Prime Minister Harold Wilson is remembered for saying that “a week is a long time in politics”. This is not true only of politics but also of the media.
The shooting down of civilian passenger plane MH17 over the Eastern Ukraine conflict zone this past week in which all 298 innocents on board were killed has dominated cabinet offices, television screens, front pages, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds globally.
The world remains in shock and Western Australia is still coming to grips with the loss of nine of its own residents.
All of this is in the shadow of flight MH370 and its 239 passengers and crew that went missing over four months ago and which to date has still not been found.
Stories of this kind would never have crossed the minds of the men and women who worked on the earliest editions of this paper.
Even when The Record began as a monthly paper back in 1874, it is likely that people would never have conceived that twenty years later Sir Hiram Maxim would make a successful take-off in a biplane test rig.
Who would have imagined then the aeronautical advances that would transpire? When permitted, time brings with it ingenuity.
Many editorials have been written for this newspaper over its 140-year history, seeking to raise reflection, criticism and encouragement on a myriad of matters that affect the Church and humanity at large.
Authenticity and originality have always sought to underpin the paper’s content.
As we move into what is possibly the most dramatic change in the way the Archdiocese of Perth communicates among its people and also with wider society, we hold on to the responsibilities passed down to us by the Second Vatican Council which spoke of the Church’s responsibility to monitor the use of social communications and media and to ensure the spiritual well-being of the Church community at large.
It also talked of the responsibility of us as individuals to ensure our own well-being and to safeguard causing ourselves “spiritual harm”.
Those of us serving on the communications and media team take these responsibilities seriously.
In an era where the term “spin” is closely associated with public relations, we wish to acknowledge our obligation “to provide correct, honest, and accurate news, as the Council believes that access to information, in relation to their circumstances, is a human right” (Inter Mirifica, §7).
A weekly newspaper alone is no longer affecting all those the Church desires to reach.
Saint John Paul II spoke back in 1988 of not only newspapers but also “periodicals, as well as films and radio and television broadcasts” to be “more and more imbued with a human and Christian spirit” (Pastor Bonus, §170).
Our desire in the months and years ahead is not merely to report on what transpires within and outside of the Church, but to begin to explain and break open to Catholics, fellow Christian believers, people of faith and of none why it is that the Church’s teaching remains relevant and life-giving today.
There are many key issues with which we need to grapple further and to boldly yet graciously dialogue with wider society.
These include upholding the dignity of life from conception to natural death, the debate over the use of renewable energies against uranium and nuclear energy as the fuel of the future, the attitude towards and treatment of refugees and asylum seekers internationally but, in particular, on our own doorstep on Christmas Island, Manus Island and Nauru.
Then there is the threatened status of marriage, the urgent need to reduce suicide among our young people, the delicate nature of relationships between Christians, Jews and Muslims and, of course, the continued healing of relationships between all Australians, Indigenous and settler alike.
In this final editorial of Perth’s weekly Catholic newspaper, we want to thank you, the readers, for turning to The Record for news and insights into Catholic life.
We also wish to acknowledge with immense gratitude and deep respect the professionalism, industry and great tenacity of editors, journalists, invited contributors and all other personnel who have served The Record as a newspaper since its conception to the present day.
As the Archdiocese of Perth moves towards broader, more accessible means of communication for a greater number of people, further words of Harold Wilson might well be recalled, namely that “he who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery”.
Christ’s story did not end in the tomb, and neither does The Record’s. Now, as much as at any point in history, is the time for us as God’s family to renew our commitment to following the Good Shepherd who lays down his life so as to bring life to the full, not only to ourselves but to all those around us (cf John 10:10-11) and to being his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).