By Christopher Wells
Although modern means of communication can be “a powerful means of fostering communion and dialogue within our human family,” they can also become “places of toxicity, hate speech, and fake news,” warns Pope Francis, in a message to the lay communications network SIGNIS, which is holding its annual World Congress in Seoul in August.
“It is appropriate,” the Pope says, “that, in these days marked by new outbreaks of violence and aggression in our world, you have chosen as the theme of your World Congress ‘Peace in the Digital World.”
Serious ethical issues
Pope Francis notes, “The use of digital media, especially social media, has raised a number of serious ethical issues that call for wise and discerning judgment on the part of communicators, and all those concerned with authenticity and the quality of human relationships.” SIGNIS, he continues, “can play an important role” in meeting this challenge, especially through “media education, networking Catholic media, and countering lies and misinformation.”
In his message, the Pope encourages SIGNIS members to persevere in their efforts by helping people “develop a sound critical sense, learning to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, good from evil, and to appreciate the importance of working for justice, social concord, and respect for our common home.” At the same time, recognizing that many communities have limited access to “the digital space,” he calls on SIGNIS communicators to make “digital inclusion a priority” in their planning.
The value of listening
The Holy Father also calls attention to the importance of listening “as the first and indispensable ingredient of dialogue and good communication,” an issue he highlighted in his message for World Communication Day 2022.
“Communication is not just a profession, but a service to dialogue and understanding between individuals and larger communities in the pursuit of a serene and peaceful coexistence.”
Listening, he says, “is likewise essential to the synodal journey that the whole Church has undertaken in these years,” recalling the ongoing Synod on Synodality that will culminate at the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2023. “It is my hope,” Pope Francis says, “that, in your communication, you will contribute to this process by assisting the holy and faithful people of God in our commitment to listen to one another, to the Lord’s will, and to grow in the awareness that we participate in a communion that precedes and includes us.”
“In this way, your efforts to foster ‘Peace in the Digital World’ will help to create an ever more ‘symphonic’ Church, whose unity is expressed in a harmonious and sacred polyphony.”