Inter mirifica (Among the wonderful) is a decree "On the Media of Social Communication" made by the council at Vatican II which was promulgated on December 4, 1963 by Pope Paul VI. It is composed of 24 points, with the aim of addressing the concerns and problems of social communication. Inter mirifica identifies social communication as the press, cinema, television, and other similar types of communication interfaces. The title is taken from the opening lines of the document and means "among the wonderful".
The term social communications, apart from its more general use, has become the preferred term within documents of the Catholic Church for reference to media or mass media. It has the advantage, as a term, of wider connotation - all communication is social but not all communication is "mass". In effect, though, the two terms are used synonymously.
While Inter mirifica was one of the first decrees to reach a conclusion during Vatican II, the document itself went through many drafts, throughout its development. Over 70 drafts of Inter mirifica were prepared, yet out of all of these drafts, only nine were ready for final approval from the Vatican Council. The first draft Schema of a constitution on the Means of Social Communications, combined with the other six, were made into one volume by July 1962. This draft document consisted of an Introduction (nos 1-5), doctrines of the Church (6-33), the Apostolate of the Church in the field (34-48), the discipline and the ecclesiastical order (49-63), the different means of social communication (64-105), other means of Social Communication (106-111) and a conclusion (112-114). Although the discussion on Inter mirifica lasted for a short period (November 23–27, 1962), the document had a drastic change. The final draft, reduced to a quarter of its original length, which contains an introductory section, two short chapters and a conclusion.
The document's immediate reception was fairly negative The document was heavily criticized for falling short of expectations, as well as failing to provide any new or different thoughts or instructions on social communications. At the close of the Council, in a brief assessment of the documents it had produced, the New York Times said this text had been "generally condemned as inadequate and too conservative". These sentiments have been the long-standing memories of the document, with these sentiments continuing 40 years following the decree.
However, the document did provide the beginning stages for further Church instructions on social communications, with the further documents of Communio et Progressio and Aetatis Novae. Furthermore, from the document emerged World Social Communication Day, which was created by the Second Vatican Council to provide an annual message for the church to its people and the rest of the world. Pope John Paul II vigorously promoted responsibility and positive goals in Social Communication not only in person but through messages given on this religious festival and through supporting the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
As mentioned previously, in the follow up and expansion of Inter mirifica, the document Communio et progressio was later written in 1971 as an update to Inter mirifica. A further document, Aetatis Novae, was published in 1992. In 2005, John Paul II wrote his final apostolic letter, The Rapid Development, on the topic of social communications
In his message "The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word" to priests for the 44th World Communications Day (16 May 2010), Pope Benedict XVI called for them to become digital citizens and engage with the information society, saying, "Priests stand at the threshold of a new era: as new technologies create deeper forms of relationship across greater distances, they are called to respond pastorally by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word.... Who better than a priest, as a man of God, can develop and put into practice, by his competence in current digital technology, a pastoral outreach capable of making God concretely present in today’s world and presenting the religious wisdom of the past as a treasure which can inspire our efforts to live in the present with dignity while building a better future?"