In the February 6 issue of Newsweek, the “World on a Page” section (p.8), there is a brief article about Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for World Communications Day 2012 which takes place this year on May 20. The Newsweek writer characterized the Message as an “admonition against the excesses of the Internet.” I had already read the Message and that was not my impression at all.
In his Message, entitled Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization, the Holy Father encourages us to enrich all of our communications and relationships with times of silence and contemplation. The Holy Father writes:
“In speaking of God’s grandeur, our language will always prove inadequate and must make space for silent contemplation. Out of such contemplation springs forth, with all its inner power, the urgent sense of mission, the compelling obligation “to communicate that which we have seen and heard” so that all may be in communion with God (1 Jn 1:3). Silent contemplation immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbors so that we may feel their suffering and offer them the light of Christ, his message of life and his saving gift of the fullness of love.”
He observes that many interactions on the Internet are questions and answers. Some of the questions are about the meaning of life and reveal the restlessness of hearts for something more. The Holy Father invites us to enter into dialogue with those seeking answers and to invite them to reflection on the Word of God, to silence and prayer. He urges us to prepare for these interactions with our own times of silence and contemplation.
There are some in the Church and many in the media, who would love for the Pope and Vatican to bash social media. For those in the Church, it would justify their resistance to change and for the media, conflict always makes a good story. But that is not going to happen. This Holy Father and the ones before him have recognized the value of using every means available to proclaim the Gospel. Pope Benedict concluded his message with these words:
“Word and silence: learning to communicate is learning to listen and contemplate as well as speak. This is especially important for those engaged in the task of evangelization: both silence and word are essential elements, integral to the Church’s work of communication for the sake of a renewed proclamation of Christ in today’s world.”
If I were to have written the short article for Newsweek, I think I would have written something like this. In the Message for the 46th World Communications Day, the Holy Father invites all communicators to bring the fruits of their prayer, silence and contemplation to their interactions on the Internet. He invites them to create “a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.” Without this balance, all interactions will remain superficial and inadequate. With it, they will have a great opportunity to proclaim God’s love to the world in new and wonderful ways.
What would you have written?