Open Wide the Doors
Bishops advertise for reconciling
Series of radio and TV spots call attention to our need to forgive hurts
Third in a Renew series on reconciling
By Peter Feuerherd
The Bible calls for people to be one with one another. Pope John
Paul has called for the jubilee millennium year to be "a year of
reconciliation between disputing parties."
Now, the U.S. bishops are delivering that messsage through a
series of radio and TV spots. The spots are part of a public
service advertising campaign and were developed by the Bishops'
Catholic Communicaiton Campaign, an effort to bring values to
people through the media.
This latest venture, a series of ads produced pro bono by the New
York advertising firm of Saatchi & Saatchi, aired on cable and
broadcast stations throughout the country.
Pat Ryan Garcia, director of distribution for the Catholic
Communications Campaign, is confident the public service
announcements pack a wallop that transcends sectarian boundaries.
The spots, both 30-second and 15-second, provide short vignettes
of "very real dilemmas that everyone can relate to."
This series of spots is a continuation of other U.S. Catholic
Conference campaigns over the past five years, which included
public service announcements promoting prayer and family values.
Three spots on the reconciliation theme include:
-- A man scurrying around the house in the morning, apparently
anxious about the upcoming work day. But he's not anxious about
work; instead, he's nervous about an imminent meeting with his
brother whom he hasn't talked to for years.
-- A father watches a video of a family picnic. He looks sad as
he views shots of his son, who's no longer in his life. "His son
didn't die," a voice-over proclaims. "He had an argument." The
father reluctantly picks up a phone, only to put it down.
-- A young woman, in close-up, is seen apologizing to her father
over a long-festering argument. A wide shot reveals a different
twist on the situation.
The spots - which air using donated time - provide a powerful
message in a short period, a secret of any kind of effective
advertising, said Garcia.
"You have to grab them. You have to touch them," she said, noting
that the spots have "a quality and a message that are so strong
they should get lots of air play."
The messages, she noted, are a means of "promoting Catholic
values in a less obvious way" than previous media campaigns, such
as one on prayer also sponsored by the U.S. Catholic Conference.
The result, she said, should be wide exposure, even if the
campaign has to rely on the generosity of media companies to
provide the time.
Amy Martin, of Saatchi & Saatchi, who has worked on the project,
said the spots should appeal to all viewers, whether they are
Catholics or of some other faith or express no faith at all.
"It's a feel-good message that reconciliation is something that
they should address in their daily lives," one viewers will get,
The pope's message on reconciliation, she said, needs to be heard
by all, regardless of denomination or faith background.
"All people have someone in their lives with whom they have had a
falling out, someone whom they don't think everything is right
with," she said. In such situations, Martin said, "it's hard to
make that first move. There's a need to take baby steps to fix
The public service announcements, she said, offer an inducement
for viewers to take that step. The message, said Martin, is
ultimately an optimistic one. "There's always hope. There's
always a way to make it right with that person," she said.
(Feuerherd, former assistant editor of the Long Island Catholic,
newspaper of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., works with
the American Bible Society in New York.)
-- Next: Taking steps to reconcile a nation