Vatican Spokesman Analyzes John Paul II's Talent for Communication

Highlights Three Elements in Particular

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MURCIA, Spain, MAY 19, 2003 ( To the question ‘What is the secret of John Paul II’s communicative ability?’ Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls has a three-part answer.

Navarro-Valls, director of the Vatican Press Office highlights three elements of John Paul II’s communicative power: his ability to use ordinary language to transmit the message; his charism to make the faith evident; and the renewal of the papal image over the past 25 years.

The spokesman gave an address on May 17 on «John Paul II’s Example and Teaching on Social Communication,» at the closing of the 2nd International Congress on the Church and the Media, organized by the Catholic University of St. Anthony of Murcia.

In his address, Navarro-Valls, a doctor and journalist by profession, spoke about the media’s interest in this Pope and how he transmits his message.

Use of Ordinary Language:

In the first place, Navarro-Valls said, Pope John Paul II «has tried from the beginning of his pontificate to create a common system of references as an indispensable task so that the realm of Christian values can be understood today.»

«The apparent formal difficulty of some documents and writings is due to the fact that ordinary language is not considered as a valid means of communication and, consequently, it is necessary to reason from the root, defining each term,» he added.

«His message — transmitted in an expressive variety that includes the written and spoken word and gestures — is always focused on putting a specific human being — man or woman — in contact with the transcendent God of Christian revelation,» he said.

In a word the objective is to overcome «the subjectivization of the religious fact,» the spokesman continued, «to situate humanity before the religious dimension, in such a way that man will again feel himself questioned by God, in whom he is and in all that he does.»

Making Faith Evident:

In the second place, the Pope has sought in his pontificate to make «the religious fact evident,» Navarro-Valls continued.

«Religion is taken out of the orbit of subjectivity and is made evident, visible, in a catechetical effort that addresses all human dimensions relating to the world of culture, economic inequalities, the construction of social systems that give greater consideration to the family, the sick, education, respect for liberties and human rights,» he said.

This is the meaning of the Pope’s 99 international apostolic trips, «an occasion for the Church to be made visible in each one of the places visited,» he added.

Renewing the Pontificate:

The third aspect explaining the media’s attention to this Pope is «the renewal he has brought about over these 25 years of the image of the papacy as an historical institution,» the Vatican spokesman said.

Joaquín Navarro-Valls quoted an expression of John Paul II: «In earlier times, people went to the parish priest. Today it is the priest who must go out to find the people.» The Pope has tried to live this maxim with his activity,» the spokesman added.

«Paul VI, the first Pope to travel outside of Italy, limited himself to greeting journalists, but he did not take questions,» he said, adding: «John Paul II provokes journalists by accepting their questions and answering in the languages in which the questions are formulated.»

«Deep down, the media and image cultures are sensitive to values when the latter are presented with vigor, conviction, and constancy. John Paul II is the only personality of global resonance who asks the world: ‘What is a human being?’ Or also: ‘What does human dignity mean?'»

«It is what this pontificate has done over the past 25 years. And what it continues to do today,» Navarro-Valls concluded.

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