23 September 2019

Pope to Communications Dicastery: Be Christian witnesses to Truth

Pope Francis meets with members of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications on the occasion of their Plenary Assembly and gives them a series of examples of what communication should, and should not, be.

By Vatican News


Pope Francis is known to be a great communicator. But on Monday morning in the Vatican he gave an example of communication skills that surprised even those whose job it is to communicate him and his message throughout the world.

Communicating from the heart

The Pope began by playfully suggesting that his “seven-page discourse” (which was really only three) risked putting his audience to sleep. Which is why he preferred to talk to them informally about communication, in terms of what was “in his heart”.

Communicating without holding back

Pope Francis reminded members of the Dicastery that communication begins with an attitude: that of God who communicates Himself to us. In the same way, true communicators give of themselves, he said, “putting all your irons on the fire”, and holding back nothing. 

Communicating holistically

The Pope stressed the need to communicate “all that is true, just, good, and beautiful”. This must be done, he said, using “mind and heart, heads and hands – everything”. It is in love, he added, that we see the fullness of communication.

Communicating not proselytizing

Pope Francis was firm about not engaging in a “commercial” style of communication that sets out to proselytize, or forcibly convert people. He quoted Pope emeritus Benedict XVI who once said, “the Church does not grow by proselytizing, but through witnessing”. 

Communicating by witnessing

Communicating the Truth, means witnessing with your own life, said the Pope. “Being Christian means being witnesses, being martyrs”. He recalled the words of Saint Francis of Assisi, who said: “Preach the Gospel at all times. And when necessary, use words”. Witness, said the Pope, must always come first. Ours is a Church of martyrs, he added.

Communication not resignation 

Pope Francis also warned against the temptation of “resignation”. Resignation, he said, does not reflect love for God. It exists in the pagan world, and Jesus Himself warns His disciples against the danger of “worldliness”. Do not fear “a Church of the few”, said the Pope, as long as we are like “salt, like yeast”.

Communicating using nouns

Pope Francis called for a communication that uses “nouns rather than adjectives”. Nouns identify people and things. Rather than using an adjective to describe a person as “this or that”, nouns communicate “the reality of people”, said the Pope, and this is what Christian communicators are called to do.

Communicating beautifully

The Pope suggested a style of communication that is “austere but beautiful”. Not a “Rococo” kind of beauty, he said, but a beauty that expresses itself “through nouns”, through “witness”, through involving oneself in communication.

Communicating the joy of the Gospel

Pope Francis concluded his off-the-cuff remarks saying communicators should learn the language of the martyrs and the Apostles by rereading the Acts of the Apostles and the writings of the early Christian community. “Communicate the joy of the Gospel”, said the Pope, because “that is what God is asking you to do”.

Then he stood up and personally greeted each and every member of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications present at the audience.

All 500 of us.