VATICAN CITY, JAN. 24, 2012 ( "When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary."

Benedict XVI offered this reflection today in his message for World Communications Day, which he dedicated this year to the theme "Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization."

He spoke of the need for a balance between silence and word: "When word and silence become mutually exclusive, communication breaks down, either because it gives rise to confusion or because, on the contrary, it creates an atmosphere of coldness; when they complement one another, however, communication acquires value and meaning."

Silence "gives rise to even more active communication, requiring sensitivity and a capacity to listen that often makes manifest the true measure and nature of the relationships involved," the Pope said.

Referring to the Internet as a forum for questions and answers, the Holy Father noted that "people today are frequently bombarded with answers to questions they have never asked and to needs of which they were unaware. If we are to recognize and focus upon the truly important questions, then silence is a precious commodity that enables us to exercise proper discernment in the face of the surcharge of stimuli and data that we receive."

"Ultimately," he suggested, "this constant flow of questions demonstrates the restlessness of human beings, ceaselessly searching for truths, of greater or lesser import, that can offer meaning and hope to their lives. Men and women cannot rest content with a superficial and unquestioning exchange of skeptical opinions and experiences of life -- all of us are in search of truth and we share this profound yearning today more than ever."

Silence, moreover, is what we need to speak to God, the Pope recalled.

"If God speaks to us even in silence, we in turn discover in silence the possibility of speaking with God and about God," he said.

"In silent contemplation, then, the eternal Word, through whom the world was created, becomes ever more powerfully present and we become aware of the plan of salvation that God is accomplishing throughout our history by word and deed," the Pontiff continued.

He concluded: "Word and silence: learning to communicate is learning to listen and contemplate as well as speak."

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