Why Is It So Hard for the Church to Communicate?

Interview With Father Pighin, a Director at the Urban University

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ROME, JULY 2, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Many people say that it is difficult for ecclesial institutions and leaders to communicate, but few analyze the reasons.

Father Claudio Pighin is one researcher who has delved into the problem. A priest of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions, he has written a book entitled «Pastorale della Comunicazione. Evangelizzazione e Nuova Cultural dei Media» (Pastoral Program of Communication: Evangelization and New Media Culture), published by Urbaniana.

In this interview with ZENIT, Father Pighin, who advises the Brazilian bishops on communication matters, says that the key is not to have more means of communication but that the message be lived and understood by the person who proclaims it.

Q: How difficult it is to communicate. Why is it so difficult?

Father Pighin: Sometimes human beings deceive themselves, because they think that by giving messages they have already communicated.

But the simple act of speaking does not automatically mean to have communicated. Communication is not an automatic event of transmission of data and sounds. Rather, it calls for a syntony proper to the process of communication.

If the communicator and the recipient do not have a common code to codify and de-codify a message, then it is difficult to communicate.

Communication can also be complicated if the methods used to transmit the message are not known by the users.

These are some examples proper to the process of communication. It is obvious that this process is very extensive, circumscribed in turn to the different cultures, and sometimes undervalued, thus complicating relations between persons and peoples.

Q: What is the objective sought by the Church’s pastoral communications program?

Father Pighin: The difficulty in communicating entails problems that also affect the heart of the Church. It is caused by several factors, in the first place, the trivialization of the messages.

In general, the improvement and diffusion that the means of communication have achieved in recent years — for example, Internet and the digital systems — has not been followed by the contents to be transmitted.

What is more, often the «bombardment» of information and data that people suffer has diminished their willingness and capability of reception.

From this stems the realization that from the point of view of ecclesial realities there is increasing need to acquire skills in these instruments to be able to propose the evangelical message again in all its force.

It is essential that this message really be felt, and that the person who communicates it understands it and fully adheres to it.

I think that in certain realms of the Church the pastoral communications program is reduced to the simple use of the media. To use more means does not mean greater communication, because communication is far more than that.

A luminous example of the results the Church can achieve in the realm of communication is, without a doubt, Pope John Paul II, who is able to use any mass media and to reach all persons with force, both Christians and non-Christians.

Q: The pastoral communications program is an authentic pastoral program of salvation, you say. In what sense?

Father Pighin: It is important to remember that the pastoral communications program — I call it «Pascom» — is not a new pastoral program, but an essential support for all the others.

A diocese, parish or community without a pastoral communications program will meet with great difficulties to carry out its structural plan of evangelization.

This knowledge of communication is possible only through specific studies: Its usefulness lies in its being an effective strategy to discover and help others discover increasingly the presence of God, communicating the gifts received from him, in living our Christian life.

So the pastoral communications program is a support, a help to accede to the Word, to life and to salvation.

Q: What is the role of the Holy Spirit in communication?

Father Pighin: The Person of the Holy Spirit is also authentic communication.

Here is an example: When we celebrate Pentecost, the feast in which we recall the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, we see that these disciples were able to speak in tongues different from their mother tongue.

They were able to communicate the Word beyond their education and circumstances. They received the possibility of transmitting the Word, to contribute to the building of the Kingdom with new instruments.

Therefore, the Holy Spirit’s action attests that communication goes beyond human capacities. The Holy Spirit projects us toward an infinite horizon. This is also part of the human vocation and aspiration.

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[Father Pighin has an Italian-language Web site at www.claudio-pighin.net.]

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