Pope Francis has urged the importance of listening with the heart as the theme for the 56th World Day of Communications.
Catholic Church worldwide will observe the World Day of Communications on the Ascension Sunday, May 29. The Second Vatican Council established the World Day of Communication which has been celebrated since 1967.
The World Day of Communications 2022 message is the ninth from Pope Francis.
Recalling that faith comes from hearing, the Pope quotes the words of Jesus who urged his disciples: "Take care, then, how you listen." The Holy Father described the hearing like the one most favoured by God among the five senses because it is less invasive, more discreet than sight, and leaves human beings free.
Citing the words of St Augustine, the Pope urged the need “to listen from the heart.” In the Church, Pope said, there is a great need to listen to and hear one another.
We should listen with the ears of God so that we may speak the word of God. The first service we owe to others in communion consists in listening to them. He also quoted the words of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said: “Whoever does not know how to listen to his brother or sister will soon no longer be able to listen to God either.”
Communication today assumes much importance in the church as well as society. Political leaders increasingly use social media to campaign and connect with the masses, and promote particular ideologies and causes. The growing influence of social media is evident in the way powerful forces use social media to mobilize mass support for their cause.
Today, even wars and mass protests are fought with high decibel media campaigns more than weapons. Fake news, disinformation, misinformation and manipulation of data are used to win power over the masses. The huge misinformation campaign and the speed with which they were spread across the world led to the coining of the word ‘Infodemic’.
Church communication is to be rooted in truth. The World Day of Communication is a clarion call to all Christian communicators, leaders and Christians to acknowledge that the media are God’s gift and need to be used with responsibility and effectively to promote the common good and to proclaim the Good News of Christ. The Christians are also urged to contribute to the support of the Church’s many engagements in communication.
The Catholic Church has a high stake in communication and is present across a large spectrum of activities and programs. This range from communication departments in universities and colleges, publishing houses, television and radio stations, social media networks, news services and continental, national and diocesan communication offices. These are intended to foster and promote authentic communication.
The Vatican’s department of social communication coordinates several communication activities in the church. There are world-level Catholic media organizations like Signis, Catholic press associations, and continental and episcopal commissions that render professional support and coordination in the Church’s social communication ministry. The Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) Office of Social Communication established in 1974 was one of the first of the nine offices of the FABC, to lead the communication ministry of the Church in the vast continent of Asia.
Asia’s major communication activity, Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), which has 22 language services, has a million followers across Asia and outside. A project of the FABC, RVA aims to become the voice of Christianity and a missionary of Asia.
The Asian bishops have also established an institute for formation in social communication called Veritas Asia Institute of Social Communication (VAISCOM) to offer training and promote research.
In addition, a variety of communication programs in the continent are run by the episcopal conferences, dioceses, religious congregations and academic institutions in Asia. It may be noted that Asia’s four leading Catholic news agencies—UCA News, LiCAS, Matters India and Indian Catholic Matters are the fruit of the initiatives of laypersons with media competence and pastoral vision. They play a vital role in serving the information needs of the churches in Asia. The Church also has programs to honour and recognize media professionals like filmmakers, writers and artists.
However, the World Day of Communications and the Pope’s message is a clarion call to awaken to the importance of strengthening the church’s efforts to respond to a fast-changing world of media.
Catholic communication ministry cannot be complacent and rest on its laurels but needs to evolve greater professionalism, strategic planning, networking and financial support. Church organizations and leadership cannot ignore the urgency of taking communication more seriously and with greater commitment and passion than what is being done today. Seminarians and pastoral leaders need the better formation and lay professionals need greater support and recognition.
There are many inspiring models and path-breaking initiatives in the church’s ministry of social communication, but they need to be strengthened and emulated to take forward the mission of the church.
The feasts of the Ascension and the Pentecost are at the heart of the Church’s missionary mandate. Communication is pivotal in our times to respond to Christ’s call to proclaim the Good News to the whole world.
Besides the patron of the Catholic journalist, Saint Francis de Sales, and of the television Saint Clare of Assisi, the church in our times can draw inspiration from Saint Mother Teresa, Saint John Paul II, and the recently canonized Saint Titus Brandsma and Blessed Carlo Acutis, who have shown how best social communication can serve the Church and its mission for the people of God.
(Fr George Plathottam sdb is the Executive Secretary, FABC Office of Social Communication)
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.