Archbishop Celli: We Must Be Quiet to Understand Each Other

Vatican Official on Pope’s Message for Sunday’s Communications Day

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By Jose Antonio Varela Vidal

VATICAN CITY, MAY 17, 2012 ( This Sunday, the Church marks the World Day of Communications. In his message for this year’s day, Benedict XVI chose to lead the faithful in a reflection on silence in evangelization.

To speak about the importance of the Pope’s teaching in this field, as well as of the challenges of the Church in the world of modern communications, ZENIT interviewed Archbishop Claudio Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

ZENIT: Your Excellency, how did the idea of silence arise in the Pope’s message?

Archbishop Celli: The topic chosen by the Holy Father for this World Day of Social Communications is attentive to today’s communicative phenomena and invites us all to reflect on this fundamental point: Silence is an integral part of communication. This is why, when we wish communication to be genuinely human — because it begins from one man and is addressed to other men — the word that is communicated must be nourished by silence to be more meaningful, to be more true. Because it is in silence that I hear, it is in silence that I understand more attentively what are the needs, the sufferings, the search for the good and true that is in the heart of other men.

ZENIT: The message says that we must learn to listen. In what areas should be listening?

Archbishop Celli: I think this is a very typical dimension of Pope Benedict XVI. When we proposed to him to open the Vatican channel of Youtube, the Pope accepted immediately. The Pope wished to be present where the men of today are. All of us are aware of the rapid and immense development of the social networks. Today, according to the international data we have, more than a billion people are users of Facebook. It seems to us that it is important to be present on the social networks because many seek truth, man seeks to find an answer to the great questions that he has in his life: Which are they? What is the meaning of my life? Where am I going? Hence I would say that we need to be present in these networks, to be heralds, to be witnesses.

ZENIT: What does the Pope intend to say with the word “eco-system”?

Archbishop Celli: The problem is that there is a profusion of messages, of news, of information and of words, but not all are genuine words, not all are true words for man’s journey. I think that for the Pope to speak of ecology in the communicative system means this, in fact: that in the measure possible, the words that make up our communication should always be true words, authentic words, words that are respectful of the dignity of the man who pronounces them and respectful of the man who receives them.

ZENIT: After several years of experience, what do you see as the most important characteristics of Catholic sites?

Archbishop Celli: I would say, in fact, that our means of communication should be ever more adjusted to the truth of man, which is linked to the truth of God. And I would say that today it is a challenge for us all, because, when we find ourselves in a communicative environment, man is bombarded by messages and information, by proposals of little truth, of truth with a “small t”. This is why, yet again, with the message for the World Day of Social Communications of this year, the Pope invites us to be able to discern. Hence the need for silence, because it is in silence that I can make an opportune discernment and verify if what I hear, what I receive, is really valid in my search for truth.

ZENIT: Does it refer to a trivialization of our encounters with others?

Archbishop Celli: I would say that is a challenge for us all. For me the problem is not to trivialize the encounter, [but] to have every meeting always be rich, purposeful, dense in humanity, because the risk is precisely that of trivializing our human relationships.

ZENIT: What will be your dicastery’s main contribution to the Synod on the New Evangelization?

Archbishop Celli: Our contribution, in fact, is to help to understand what the new communicative environment entails. For some time, papal teaching has had the awareness that we no longer talk of communicative instruments, but that the new technologies have given origin to a new culture, which we call “digital culture.” To speak of a new evangelization will be to accept the challenge of this respectful dialogue with today’s digital culture and, in this context, to make the word of Jesus resound ever more clearly.

ZENIT: How are the Vatican’s means of communication doing in the new digital spaces?

Archbishop Celli: I would say that we had a splendid experience with the Pope’s message for Lent, which was transmitted in 40 tweets, in agreement with the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. We launched a tweet that the world of youth then “re-tweeted” every day. I think that never before was a message of the Pope for Lent so known and widespread among young people. Our Council also, at the request of the Secretariat of State, opened the new site; today we are operating in four languages and I hope that by the summer we will be able to open the Portuguese edition also. Normally we have about 10,000 visitors every day.

ZENIT: So we are speaking of evangelization through the digital means?

Archbishop Celli: The word of Jesus should resound in the world in the widest possible way. We believe that, on the great roads of the cybernetic world, man will again be able to find the love of a God who seeks him tirelessly, because God loves man and God can communicate this love and meet the man of today also on these great roads of the cybernetic world.

ZENIT: So, what are the projects going forward in the Pontifical Council for Social Communications?

Archbishop Celli: The projects are based above all on formation. The Council helps young priests of various countries to enter into the world of communication and to obtain a doctorate at the Pontifical Universities. Then we are offering courses of formation for bishops and priests. We had one in Brazil last year. A short time ago I was in Lebanon to meet with bishops of the Middle East, where we had a splendid seminar with 50 bishops and many priests, lay people and sisters, all working in the world of communication. Next Sunday, May 20, I will leave for Ukraine, where I will also have meetings with bishops, priests and lay people to discover together how the Church must address the challenge of the digital culture and how, in this context, the Word of the Lord can resound.

ZENIT: Can you tell us about the sharing forum that you created on-line to share materials?

Archbishop Celli: Within the limits of the possible, we try to help the various local Churches to live the World Day of Communication appropriately, so that the Pope’s message, so illuminating and rich, can be known as much as possible. The Pope has this great capacity to touch on topics that are not always easy, but he does so in an illuminating, clear way. This is why we wish to see the message spread as much as possible, sharing the pastoral resources prepared by the Episcopal and Diocesan Conferences; we are using the hash tag “Silence2012.”

ZENIT: What is your message for our readers, who will observe the World day of Communication on Sunday?

Archbishop Celli: I think the message is this: let’s live with joy and responsibility the mission that the Lord has entrusted to us. We are not sent to proclaim ourselves; we are called to proclaim Jesus Christ; we are called to proclaim the only word that saves man. Hence we must live it with great dedication, with high professionalism, but also happy to be able to be instruments of this proclamation of truth.

Further reflection:

[Translation by ZENIT]

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On the Net:

Pope’s message for World Day of Communications:

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