Benedict XVI Stresses Value of Silence

Message Presented for 46th World Day of Social Communications

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By Luca Marcolivio

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 24, 2012 ( Silence does not mean absence of communication. It is, rather, the other face of the word, which confers meaning on it, modulating the times of socialization, education and evangelization.

These are some of the reflections found in the Message for the 46th World Day of Social Communications, signed by Benedict XVI and published today, on the liturgical memorial of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists and communicators. The theme of the message is «Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization.»

The Message was presented this morning in the Vatican Press Office by Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and the other leaders of that dicastery.

Silence, explained Archbishop Celli, is not «lack of communication» but «part of the flow of messages and information that characterizes the new culture of communication.»

Silence «can express closeness, solidarity and care for others,» in addition to being a «strong way to express our respect and love for others.»

Silence is also a form of respect for the other, an «active attitude» that «gives room to the other to speak,» added the prelate.

Silent behavior «reinforces relationship, the bond between two persons,» it helps reflection and appreciation, gives «the correct meaning to communication» and helps us not to be submerged «in the volume of communication itself,» he continued.

Today’s culture, instead, entails the serious risk of «not listening to the other’s question and of trying to impose prefabricated answers.» In conversation, on the contrary, silence is fundamental in as much as it makes possible «inter-activity,» hence, a real search for truth.

For humanity

Archbishop Celli commented to ZENIT on the apparent contradiction between the virtual nature of today’s communication and the «bodily nature» of the Christian message.

And, if on one hand the Holy Father’s invitation to reappraise the virtue of silence might appear in opposition to the massive deluge of information that we receive daily, the Vatican’s communication official noted, the Pontiff’s concern is addressed to the human eco-system, seen as a «propitious environment able to balance images, silence and sounds.»

«The Pope’s great concern is for man, in particular for men inserted in today’s context,» he said. «His message is not addressed only to us Catholics. There are laymen who feel the profound need to rediscover the authenticity of the word, and, at the same time, the authenticity of man, through a silence that we describe as ‘contemplative.'»

Contemplation in expression

On the silence of the Church in face of evil, Archbishop Celli said that it is good «to distinguish the semantic value of silence and of being silent. There must be a moment when my contemplation must find a strong expression.»

Hence, the alleged silence of the Church, which manifests itself sometimes in face of injustices and behavior that is contrary to Christian morality, is not always necessarily a «being silent.»

In this connection, the Holy Father’s message stresses that «it is from silence that the building of justice is born. Hence, the silence that the Pope invokes is not the alienating of oneself from the concrete reality,» Archbishop Celli said. «There are moments, however, when I cannot be silent: My silence would be a betrayal of man.»

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Full text of papal message:

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