By Robin Gomes
For the Church, communication is a mission which becomes truly effective when it becomes a witness, which is a participation in life in communion with one another given to by the Spirit, that leads us to discover that we are in communion one of another, members one of another.
Pope Francis made the point in the prepared text of his discourse to the Dicastery on the occasion of its Plenary Assembly which has its theme, “We are members one of another” (Eph 4:25).
As part of the reform of the Roman Curia, the Pope established the Dicastery in June 2015 as the Secretariat for Communication, bringing under it 9 Vatican media entities, including Vatican Radio. The Pope changed the name to the Dicastery for Communication in June 2018.
Reform, change, future, past
Pope Francis noted that his meeting with the Dicastery was taking place for the first time since the start of the reform 4 years ago. Reforms, he said, are “almost always laborious”, with some “particularly difficult stretches” and “misunderstandings”, but he said he was happy “to see that the process is going forward with foresight and prudence.”
However, for the Church, the Pope said, communication is a mission and no investment is too high to spread the Word of God.
In this task, the Pope said, one must have the courage to change, never to feel there is no further to go, nor to be discouraged, and to abandon false securities and embrace the challenge of the future.
To move ahead, he stressed, is not to extinguish the memory of the past, but to keep its fire burning.
“May the memory of all that has already been done, and the awareness of a shared effort, fill you with the strength to go forward on this path.”
Unity and witness
In the face of the huge challenges in the field of communication with exponential growth, Christians as communicators, the Pope said, are called to be united, as members one of another, in order be able to respond, ever better, to the demands of the Church's mission.
The Pope said that communication in the Church must be characterized by the principle of participation and sharing. Communication is truly effective only when it becomes witness, that is, a participation in life which is given to us by the Spirit and that leads us to discover that we are in communion one with another, members one of another. As Christians, he said, we are called to manifest that communion which marks our identity as believers.
The Pope thanked Vatican’s journalists and media people who, he said, keep pace with his commitments, working behind the scenes, putting all their professionalism and creativity, their passion and discretion into their work, at the service of the Church.
Thanking them for helping him speak in almost 40 languages, on paper, radio, television networks, websites and the social media, the Holy Father called it a “Pentecostal miracle”.
Please read the translation of the Pope’s prepared remarks by Vatican News:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am pleased to welcome you and I thank the Prefect, Dr. Paolo Ruffini, who is presiding over the plenary assembly for the first time, for the words he has addressed to me on behalf of you all. Some of your faces are familiar, because you accompany me in my daily work and on my apostolic journeys. I know, however, that there are many other people who also go about their working life according to the pace of the Pope's commitments. But they do so “behind the scenes”, putting all their professionalism and creativity, their passion and discretion into their work, at the service of the Church.
I am happy to be able to meet you all together today and thank you for what you do! Thanks to your work many people are encouraged in their journeys of faith and many are invited to search for and encounter the Lord. Thanks to your work the Pope speaks almost forty languages - it is a true "Pentecostal miracle"! Thanks to you the Magisterium of the Pope and of the Church is read on paper, listened to on the radio, seen on television networks and on websites and shared through social media, in an increasingly whirlwind digital world.
It is the first time that I have met you all together since the beginning of the process, four years ago, to incorporate in a new Dicastery of the Roman Curia, all the realities that, in different ways, deal with communications (cf. Motu Proprio The current context of communications, 27 June 2015).
Reforms are almost always laborious, and so is the one concerning Vatican media. There may have been some particularly difficult stretches on this path, there may have been some misunderstandings, but I am happy to see that the process is going forward with foresight and prudence. I am aware of the effort you have made to make the best use of the resources entrusted to you and contain unproductive costs.
For the Church, communication is a mission. No investment is too high to spread the Word of God. At the same time, every talent must be well used, made to bear fruit. This too is a measurement of the credibility of our message.
Moreover, to remain faithful to the gift received, one must have the courage to change, to never feel there is no further to go, nor to be discouraged. You must always be ready to put yourselves on the line, abandon false securities and embrace the challenge of the future. To move ahead is not to extinguish the memory of the past, it’s to keep its fire burning.
I have seen the work you have done. I see it every day. For this reason, today I would like to thank God, together with you, for the strength that He has given you and that He gives us. May the memory of all that has already been done, and the awareness of a shared effort, fill you with the strength to go forward on this path.
In reality, our strength alone is not enough. St Paul VI highlighted this 55 years ago when he addressed the members of the first plenary assembly of what was then called the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications. He recognized how limited our strength is in the face of this immense field of communication. But it is precisely because of this - he said - that it is necessary “to think of another order of forces, another way of judging things; an order and a way, that we must learn at the school of the Lord. […] Faith must sustain the smallness of our humble efforts [...]. The more we become instruments in the hands of God, the more we become small and generous, all the more probable it will be that our efficiency will increase”. (Teachings II , 563).
We know that since then, the challenges in this field have grown exponentially and our forces are never enough. The challenge to which you are called, as Christians and as communicators, is truly a huge one. And precisely for this reason it is beautiful.
I am therefore pleased that the theme chosen for this Assembly is “We are members one of another” (Eph 4:25). Your strength lies in unity, in being members one of another. Only in this way will we be able to respond, ever better, to the demands of the Church's mission.
In my Message for this year's World Communications Day, which bears the same title, I wrote that “A community is that much stronger if it is cohesive and supportive", the more "it pursues common objectives”. “The metaphor of the body and the members leads us to reflect on our identity, which is based on communion and on “otherness”. As Christians we all recognize ourselves as members of the one body of whose head is Christ,” and “we are called to manifest that communion which marks our identity as believers. Faith itself, in fact, is a relationship, an encounter; and under the impetus of God’s love, we can communicate, welcome and understand the gift of the other and respond to it”.
Communication in the Church must be characterized by this principle of participation and sharing. Communication is truly effective only when it becomes witness, that is, a participation in life which is given to us by the Spirit and that leads us to discover that we are in communion one of another, members one of another.
Saint John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Letter The rapid development: “Communication both within the Church community, and between the Church and the world at large, requires openness and a new approach towards facing questions regarding the world of media. […] This is one of the areas in which collaboration between the lay faithful and Pastors is most needed, as the Council appropriately emphasized.” “A great many wonderful things are to be hoped for from this familiar dialogue between the laity and their spiritual leaders, [...] In this way, the whole Church, strengthened by each one of its members, may more effectively fulfil its mission for the life of the world " (Lumen Gentium, 37). (n. 12).
This is why I encourage you to continue, in your daily work, to be more and more of a team, nurturing this collaboration between lay faithful, religious and priests of many countries and of many languages, which is very good for the Church. May the very style of your work bear witness to communion.
I also encourage you, beyond the work of this plenary assembly, to seek all possible ways to strengthen your network with local Churches with ingenuity and creativity. I encourage you to favour the formation of digital environments in which to communicate, not only to connect.
I know that this Dicastery has recently adopted concrete tools to promote circular communication between the local Churches and the Dicastery itself, at the service of all. I know that you have new projects, which will certainly not lack the support of the Pope. Through your work you participate in service to the unity of the Church and to the coordination of communication of the whole Roman Curia. We must walk together. We must know how to interpret and give orientation to our time. May ecclesial communication truly be the expression of a single “body”.
To each of you thank you, thank you also to your families and communities. I ask you, please, to pray for me, and from my heart I bless you.