Communication at the Service of an Authentic Encounter: this is the theme of this year’s World Communications Day, which will take place 1 June.
This theme was presented at a press briefing at the Holy See Press Office, along with Pope Francis’ message for the event.
In his message, the Holy Father said that, in a world where divisions run deep, “media can help us to feel closer to one another, creating a sense of the unity of the human family which can in turn inspire solidarity and serious efforts to ensure a more dignified life for all.”
In particular, the internet, which the Pope describes as a “gift from God,” “offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity.”
“Today we are living in a world which is growing ever ‘smaller’ and where, as a result, it would seem to be easier for all of us to be neighbours.” Nonetheless, the Pope added, “the world suffers from many forms of exclusion, marginalization and poverty, to say nothing of conflicts born of a combination of economic, political, ideological, and, sadly, even religious motives.”
Communication has the potential to repair divisions, Pope Francis continued, so long as “we are prepared to listen and learn from one another,” and to engage in dialogue “to resolve our differences.”
“A culture of encounter demands that we be ready not only to give, but also to receive,” he said.
Referring to Benedict XVI’s message for the 47th World Communications Day, Pope Francis noted that “effective Christian witness is not about bombarding people with religious messages, but about our willingness to be available to others” — as the Emeritus Pope writes — “‘by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence.’”
While media can do a great deal to help foster this encounter, the Holy Father acknowledges that problems do exist. “The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgement, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of self-expression.”
“The desire for digital connectivity,” he continued, “can have the effect of isolating us from our neighbours, from those closest to us. We should not overlook the fact that those who for whatever reason lack access to social media run the risk of being left behind.”
These drawbacks, however, “do not justify rejecting social media; rather, they remind us that communication is ultimately a human rather than technological achievement.”
Drawing on the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Holy Father said: “Whenever communication is primarily aimed at promoting consumption or manipulating others, we are dealing with a form of violent aggression like that suffered by the man in the parable, who was beaten by robbers and left abandoned on the road.”
“It is not enough to be passersby on the digital highways, simply ‘connected’; connections need to grow into true encounters.”
Concluding his message, Pope Francis said: “the Church needs to be concerned for, and present in, the world of communication, in order to dialogue with people today and to help them encounter Christ. She needs to be a Church at the side of others, capable of accompanying everyone along the way.”
On the ZENIT website: