01/24/2023, 18.14
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Pope tells communicators to speak from the heart, do not fuel wars

Francis’s message for the 2023 World Day of Social Communications was released today, centred on the theme of "truth in love”. Communication should go beyond form, and not create disinformation. The pope speaks out against bellicose rhetoric that turns words into “actions of heinous violence". The Church too should adopt a style of communication that lights “the fire of faith rather than preserve the ashes of a self-referential identity.”

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis’s message for the 57th 2023 World Day of Communications was released today, as is customary, on the feast day of Saint Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists. The celebration will take place on Sunday, 21 May.

In it, the pontiff calls on communicators to speak “with the heart” so that communications can transcend the polarisation of a time when we “are so inclined towards indifference and indignation, at times even on the basis of disinformation which falsifies and exploits the truth.”

Inspired by the verse in the Epistle to the Ephesians, “following the truth in love (cf. Eph 4:15)”, the message is a call to communicate “in a cordial way”, looking “at one another with compassion, welcoming our mutual frailties with respect rather than judging by hearsay and sowing discord and division.” This is needed to “overcome the vague din which, also in the field of information, does not help us discern in the complicated world in which we live.”

“Communicating in a cordial manner means that those who read or listen to us are led to welcome our participation in the joys, fears, hopes and suffering of the women and men of our time. Those who speak in this way love the other because they care and protect their freedom without violating it.”

The pontiff’s message is primarily for professional communicators, but “In a historical period marked by polarizations and contrasts — to which unfortunately not even the ecclesial community is immune — the commitment to communicating ‘with open heart and arms’ does not pertain exclusively to those in the field of communications; it is everyone’s responsibility.”

Communicating in a cordial manner “is not only a question of ‘etiquette’ but a genuine antidote to cruelty, which unfortunately can poison hearts and make relationships toxic. We need it in the field of media, so that communication does not foment acrimony that exasperates, creates rage and leads to clashes, but helps people peacefully reflect and interpret with a critical yet always respectful spirit, the reality in which they live.”

One clear example is offered by Saint Francis de Sales, whom Pius XI knowingly chose a hundred years ago as the patron saint of journalists with the encyclical Rerum omnium perturbationem (Disturbance of All Things).

Indeed, “one of his most famous statements, ‘heart speaks to heart’  inspired generations of faithful, among them Saint John Henry Newman [. . .]. One of his convictions was, ‘In order to speak well, it is enough to love well’. It shows that for him communication should never be reduced to something artificial, to a marketing strategy, as we might say nowadays, but is rather a reflection of the soul, the visible surface of a nucleus of love that is invisible to the eye.”

Unfortunately, “This goes against the grain today, at a time when — as we experience especially on social media — communication is often exploited so that the world may see us as we would like to be and not as we are.”

This model ought to inspire communications in the Church in her synodal journey, shaken lately by so many tensions. “We have a pressing need in the Church for communication that kindles hearts, that is balm on wounds and that shines light on the journey of our brothers and sisters,” the pontiff writes.

“I dream of an ecclesial communication that knows how to let itself be guided by the Holy Spirit, gentle and at the same time, prophetic, that knows how to find new ways and means for the wonderful proclamation it is called to deliver in the third millennium.”

This kind of communication “puts the relationship with God and one’s neighbour, especially the neediest, at the centre and which knows how to light the fire of faith rather than preserve the ashes of a self-referential identity. A form of communication founded on humility in listening and parrhesia in speaking, which never separates truth from charity.”

Ultimately, speaking from the heart is more than ever urgent today in order to promote a culture of peace in a world wounded by war.

“It is terrifying to hear how easily words calling for the destruction of people and territories are spoken. Words, unfortunately, that often turn into warlike actions of heinous violence. This is why all belligerent rhetoric must be rejected, as well as every form of propaganda that manipulates the truth, disfiguring it for ideological ends. Instead, what must be promoted is a form of communication that helps create the conditions to resolve controversies between peoples.”

“From the heart come the right words to dispel the shadows of a closed and divided world and to build a civilization which is better than the one we have received. Each of us is asked to engage in this effort, but it is one that especially appeals to the sense of responsibility of those working in the field of communications so that they may carry out their profession as a mission.”

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