Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the 47th World Communications Day was presented on Thursday, January 24 in the Press Office of the Holy See. The Day, which will take place this year on Sunday, 12 May, has the theme of “Social Networks: Portals of Truth and Faith; New Spaces for Evangelization”. Participating in the presentation were Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of that same dicastery.
“The message of this World Communications Day,” said Archbishop Celli, “presents a positive assessment, though not a naive one for that matter, of social media. They are considered an opportunity for dialogue and debate and capable of strengthening the bonds of unity among people and effectively promoting the harmony of the human family. However, this positive character requires that one’s actions be conducted with concern for privacy, with responsibility and dedication to the truth, and with authenticity, given that it has to do not only with information and knowledge but, essentially, with communicating a part of our very selves.”
“The social dynamic of the social media, it is appropriate to point out, lies within the even richer and more profound dynamic of the human heart’s existential search. There is an interweaving of questions and answers that gives meaning to the human person’s path. In this context, the Pope touches upon a delicate aspect of the matter when he speaks of the ocean of excessive information that overwhelms ‘the gentle voice of reason’.”
“The theme of the Day speaks of new spaces for evangelization: evangelization that announces the Word, that proclaims Jesus Christ. In this regard we must remember what Benedict XVI wrote in his message for the World Communications Day in 2011, when he emphasized that it was not only an explicit expression of the Faith, but essentially, an effective witness ‘in the way one communicates choices, preferences and judgments that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically’.”
Following Archbishop Celli’s address, Msgr. Tighe explained that “the Pope takes for granted the importance of the digital environment as a reality in the lives of many people. It is not some sort of parallel or merely virtual world but an existential environment where people live and move. It is a ‘continent’ where the Church must be present and where believers, if they are to be authentic in their presence, will seek to share with others the deepest source of their joy and hope, Jesus Christ. The forum created by the social networks allows us to share the truth that the Lord has passed to His Church, to listen to others, to learn about their cares and concerns, to understand who they are and for what they are searching.”
Likewise, the Holy Father “identifies some of the challenges that we must address if our presence is to be effective. We must become more fluent in the language of the social networks; a language that is born of the convergence of text, image and sound, a language that is characterized by brevity and that seeks to engage hearts and minds as well as the intellect. In this regard, the Pope reminds us to draw on our Christian heritage which is rich in signs, symbols and artistic expression. We need to remember a basic truth of communications: our witness – our actions and our patterns of behaviour – is often more eloquent than our words and proclamations in expressing who we are and what we believe. In the digital arena, the Pope suggests that our willingness to engage patiently and respectfully with the questions and doubts of those we encounter in the networks can be a powerful expression of our care and concern for them. Notwithstanding the challenges, we should always be hopeful.”