The Holy Father’s Message for this year’s World Communications Day, which will be celebrated on Ascension Sunday, flows in continuity from the previous two messages, in which Pope Francis had emphasized the verbs “Go, See and Listen” as conditions for good communications. Once we have done this, we can now enter into a communication of dynamic and dialogue, a communication of kindness and empathy, which the Holy Father calls, “speaking with the heart.”
The Holy Father points to different areas of human interaction where communicating with heart and love has become more essential. The first area is that of personal communication as a Christian disciple. Jesus warns us that every tree is known by its fruit (cf Lk 6:44)… “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”. That is why in order to communicate truth with charity, it is necessary to purify one’s heart. A pure heart will listen purely, see purely, leading us to speak and act purely. In a world that encourages hate and acrimony, Christians can quite often be tempted to bless the Lord and then curse men and women who were made in the likeness of God, with the same tongue (cf Jas 3:9). As Christians therefore, we must be mindful that our mouths attract people to Christ and not instead repel them away from the goodness of the Gospel.
The second area is that of media and politics. We unfortunately live in a time marked by polarisations and contrasts. Much of the media today encourages a ‘communication of hate’ to attract eyeballs and TRPs. This creates acrimony and rage, pitting one against another. There is a tendency to discredit and insult opponents from the outset rather than participate in a respectful listening and dialogue. Television news debates today are so much like this, where truth and falsehood, right and wrong, friend and enemy, are all decided even before the debate has begun. We need a media today that is objective and committed in telling the truth with courage and freedom, and rejecting the temptation to become mere puppets in the hands of their political masters.
A communication of rage also fuels war across the globe. The Holy Father says how terrifying it is when the powers that be make open calls for the destruction of peoples and territories and encourage acts of heinous violence, justifying it in the name of global peace. That is why, Pope Francis says, rhetoric and propaganda must be rejected by political and government leaders, that manipulates truth for ideological and selfish ends. The Holy Father has so far resisted calls to openly condemn Russia in the ongoing Ukraine war, and has instead spoken of the suffering on both sides. While Russia has been called to cease the current conflict, it has also been recognised that the actions of Western nations in the world arena quite often sow the seeds of discord and create conditions for war. The West has also been criticized for turning a blind eye to the proliferation of western manufactured arms, poverty created by the liberal capitalistic economy, and pushing poorer nations into further debt and dependence.
Closer home, our politics is gripped with hate and the sowing of divisions for political gain. After the resounding victory in the Karnataka elections, Rahul Gandhi remarked, “Nafrat ka bazaar bandh hua hai; Mohabbat ki dukhan khuli hai." We need a ‘heartfelt’ communications today that challenges the times we live in and rejects manipulation and disinformation. Media and politics must foster a culture of peace and create the conditions to resolve controversies and divisions. This is not just a responsibility of politicians and media, but of each one of us. It is our own communication – or maybe a lack of it - that quite often amplifies and multiplies a state of indifference, indignation and enmity.
Finally, the Holy Father says there is great need of speaking from the heart in the Church. Church communication today must be prophetic and find new ways and means to proclaim the Gospel relevantly in the third millennium. We have a pressing need for a communication that kindles hearts, comforts those who are suffering and puts the neediest at the centre. We are called to light the fire of faith and bring the Gospel to our contemporary world rather than be tempted to sit in the comfort of tradition and preserve the ashes of a self-referential identity.
*Fr Joshan Rodrigues, The Examiner*
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.