On January 24, the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, the Vatican released Pope Francis’ 2014 message for World Communications Day which occurs on June 1. This year’s message is entitled Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter.
In this message Pope Francis applies one of his most common themes to the Internet and social media: the importance of engaging the person by listening and seeking to understand their needs and points of view even when they differ from our own.
As part of the message, Pope Francis asks and then answers two questions:
Question: What is it, then, that helps us, in the digital environment, to grow in humanity and mutual understanding?
Answer: This calls for time and the ability to be silent and to listen. We need also to be patient if we want to understand those who are different from us. People only express themselves fully when they are not merely tolerated, but know that they are truly accepted. If we are genuinely attentive in listening to others, we will learn to look at the world with different eyes and come to appreciate the richness of human experience as manifested in different cultures and traditions. We will also learn to appreciate more fully the important values inspired by Christianity, such as the vision of the human person, the nature of marriage and the family, the proper distinction between the religious and political spheres, the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, and many others.
Question: How can we be “neighborly” in our use of the communications media and in the new environment created by digital technology?
Answer: I find an answer in the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is also a parable about communication. Those who communicate, in effect, become neighbors. The Good Samaritan not only draws nearer to the man he finds half dead on the side of the road; he takes responsibility for him. Jesus shifts our understanding: it is not just about seeing the other as someone like myself, but of the ability to make myself like the other. Communication is really about realizing that we are all human beings, children of God. I like seeing this power of communication as “neighborliness”.
I especially liked two other statements in the message:
1) By means of the internet, the Christian message can reach “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Keeping the doors of our churches open also means keeping them open in the digital environment so that people, whatever their situation in life, can enter, and so that the Gospel can go out to reach everyone. We are called to show that the Church is the home of all. Are we capable of communicating the image of such a Church? Communication is a means of expressing the missionary vocation of the entire Church; today the social networks are one way to experience this call to discover the beauty of faith, the beauty of encountering Christ. In the area of communications too, we need a Church capable of bringing warmth and of stirring hearts.
2) Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world. The Church needs to be concerned for, and present in, the world of communication, in order to dialogue with people today and to help them encounter Christ. She needs to be a Church at the side of others, capable of accompanying everyone along the way. The revolution taking place in communications media and in information technologies represents a great and thrilling challenge; may we respond to that challenge with fresh energy and imagination as we seek to share with others the beauty of God.
You can read the complete document on the Vatican website.
What strikes you about the Pope’s view of communication media and information technology in today’s Church?