Pope: listening is necessary to engage God and others in dialogue, without bias
“Fundamentally, listening is a dimension of love,” the pope says. “This is why Jesus calls his disciples to evaluate the quality of their listening. ‘Take heed then how you hear’”. Recently, “So much previously accumulated mistrust towards ‘official information’ has also caused an ‘infodemic’, within which the world of information is increasingly struggling to be credible and transparent.” If we want to “overcome prejudices about migrants and [. . .] melt the hardness of our hearts, we should try to listen to their stories.”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Papal Message for the 56th World Day of Social Communications (29 May 2022), titled Listening with the ear of the heart, was released today.
In it, Pope Francis says that listening is “the first indispensable ingredient of dialogue and good communication”, and this requires a “dialogical relationship between God and humanity”.
However, the pontiff bemoans the fact that “we are losing the ability to listen to those in front of us, both in the normal course of everyday relationships and when debating the most important issues of civil life”. In his view, the desire of every human being to be listened to “challenges anyone who is called upon to be an educator or formator (sic), or who otherwise performs a communicative role”.
Listening, Francis says, is not only about hearing; instead, it “is essentially linked to the dialogical relationship between God and humanity. ‘Shema’ Israel - Hear, O Israel’ (Dt 6:4), the opening words of the first commandment of the Torah, is continually reiterated in the Bible”.
God chose to speak in order to manifest himself to humanity, which responds by listening to him. For Francis, “Fundamentally, listening is a dimension of love. This is why Jesus calls his disciples to evaluate the quality of their listening. ‘Take heed then how you hear’ (Lk 8:18)”
“It is only by paying attention to whom we listen, to what we listen, and to how we listen that we can grow in the art of communicating, the heart of which is not a theory or a technique [. . .] The true seat of listening is the heart.”
Put in this perspective, listening is also self-communication and is radically different from "eavesdropping”, which is “an ever-present temptation that nowadays seems to have become more acute in the age of social networks.”
“Listening,” says the papal message, “is therefore the first indispensable ingredient of dialogue and good communication. Communication does not take place if listening has not taken place, and there is no good journalism without the ability to listen. In order to provide solid, balanced, and complete information, it is necessary to listen for a long time.”
Listening requires patience, an essential quality especially in difficult moments. “The ability to listen to society is more valuable than ever in this time wounded by the long pandemic. So much previously accumulated mistrust towards “official information” has also caused an ‘infodemic’, within which the world of information is increasingly struggling to be credible and transparent. We need to lend an ear and listen profoundly, especially to the social unease heightened by the downturn or cessation of many economic activities.
“The reality of forced migration is also a complex issue, and no one has a ready-made prescription for solving it. I repeat that, in order to overcome prejudices about migrants and to melt the hardness of our hearts, we should try to listen to their stories. Give each of them a name and a story.”
In the Church too there is a need to "listen to and to hear one another,” so as to avoid those ideological attitudes that arise when we do not pay attention to the reasons of others and do not try to grasp the complexity of reality.
“Whoever does not know how to listen to his brother or sister will soon no longer be able to listen to God either.” Indeed, “The most important task in pastoral activity is the ‘apostolate of the ear’ – to listen before speaking, as the Apostle James exhorts: ‘Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak’ (1:19). Freely giving some of our own time to listen to people is the first act of charity.
“A synodal process has just been launched. Let us pray that it will be a great opportunity to listen to one another. Communion, in fact, is not the result of strategies and programmes, but is built in mutual listening between brothers and sisters.
“As in a choir, unity does not require uniformity, monotony, but the plurality and variety of voices, polyphony. At the same time, each voice in the choir sings while listening to the other voices and in relation to the harmony of the whole. This harmony is conceived by the composer, but its realization depends on the symphony of each and every voice.
“With the awareness that we participate in a communion that precedes and includes us, we can rediscover a symphonic Church, in which each person is able to sing with his or her own voice, welcoming the voices of others as a gift to manifest the harmony of the whole that the Holy Spirit composes.”