In his message for the 55th World Communications Day, Pope Francis suggests that communications should be based on direct encounter with reality, people, and experiences. He criticises “standard, often tendentious narrative” found in today’s communications. Pandemic reporting should also speak about the “long wait for treatment in the poverty-stricken villages of Asia, Latin America and Africa,” the unequal distribution of vaccines, and families sliding into destitution. Francis warns against the “empty rhetoric [that] abounds, even in our time, in all areas of public life, in business as well as politics.” The mission is also about “come and see”.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The message of Pope Francis for the 55th World Communications Day, Pope Francis was released today. Usually celebrated on the solemnity of the Ascension (16 May this year), the year’s theme, “Come and See (Jn 1:46). Communicating by Encountering People as They Are”, refers to the first encounters of Jesus, cited in the Gospel of John, as “the method of all authentic human communication”.
Such an approach guarantees an encounter with reality, people, and experiences without “the complacent attitude that we ‘already know’”. Opening up to surprises and news, this method is also essential for a good journalist.
Today’s message comes on the eve of the memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists. In it, the Holy Father also cites another possible patron, Manuel Lozano Garrido (1920-1971), beatified in 2010 by Benedict XVI.
Known as “Lolo”, Lozano advised his friends and fellow journalists to “Open your eyes with wonder to what you see, let your hands touch the freshness and vitality of things, so that when others read what you write, they too can touch first-hand the vibrant miracle of life”.
For the pontiff, this is not happening today. “Insightful voices have long expressed concern about the risk that original investigative reporting in newspapers and television, radio and web newscasts is being replaced by a reportage that adheres to a standard, often tendentious narrative. This approach is less and less capable of grasping the truth of things and the concrete lives of people, much less the more serious social phenomena or positive movements at the grass roots level.”
What is more, “The crisis of the publishing industry risks leading to a reportage created in newsrooms, in front of personal or company computers and on social networks, without ever ‘hitting the streets’, meeting people face to face to research stories or to verify certain situations first hand.”
By contrast, with the “Come and See” method it is possible to discover and cover new, unusual, more complete aspects of reality. As an example, the pope cites the information on the coronavirus pandemic, in which little is said about the “long wait for treatment in the poverty-stricken villages of Asia, Latin America and Africa,” the unequal distribution of vaccines, impoverished families who “wait in line before charitable organizations in order to receive a package of provisions”.
The pontiff extols the web and social media, which make us possible “witnesses to events that otherwise would be overlooked by the traditional media,” but also warns against the spread of unverified news, manipulated images, the result of communications affected by “banal narcissism”.
The invitation to “come and see” is important for witnesses too. Seeing things makes communication real, effective and compelling. Instead, we see that “much empty rhetoric abounds, even in our time, in all areas of public life, in business as well as politics.”
Citing Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’, Francis adds: “This or that one speaks an infinite deal of nothing . . . His reasons are as two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff: you shall seek all day ere you find them, and when you have them, they are not worth the search”.
“Every tool has its value, and that great communicator who was Paul of Tarsus would certainly have made use of email and social messaging. Yet it was his faith, hope and charity that impressed those of his contemporaries who heard him preach or had the good fortune to spend time with him, to see him during an assembly or in individual conversation.”
Before the final prayer, the Pope noted: “For two millennia, a chain of such encounters has communicated the attractiveness of the Christian adventure. The challenge that awaits us, then, is to communicate by encountering people, where they are and as they are.”