The 57th World Day of Social Communications will be celebrated on 21 May 2023 with the theme “Speak with the heart” - Varitatem Facientes in Caritate” (Doing the truth in charity). Pope Francis has linked it to last year’s theme – “Listen with the ear of the heart,” as the entire Church is in preparation for the Synod in October 2023. Our heart is what motivates us to explore, observe and actively listen. It is this same heart that inspires us to communicate in an open, welcoming and friendly style of communication.
The Holy Father urges us to use “the gift of communication as a bridge, and not as a wall.” The theme emphasises the importance of speaking the truth - which must be rooted in the Gospel. However, it is essential to practice “a style of mercy, of sincere participation in the joys and sufferings of people of our time,” as seen in the dialogue between the mysterious presence of Jesus and the disciples of Emmaus, which perfectly provides an example of such a style.
To communicate kindly, we need to practice listening with patience and not forcefully assert our own views. By listening with an open heart, we can speak truthfully and lovingly. Speaking from the heart is essential for genuine listening and expressing ourselves truthfully. When we communicate in a friendly and respectful way, others will more likely accept our involvement in the experiences of people in our society - including their joys, fears, hopes and struggles. Engaging in friendly conversations can often soften our toughest hearts.
In the media industry, it is crucial that communication should not lead to hostility, anger and conflict. Instead, it should encourage peaceful and thoughtful reflection and interpretation of the world around us. We must emulate Saint Francis De Sales (Patron Saint of Journalists) for his “meek attitude, humanity and willingness to dialogue patiently with everyone, especially with those who disagree.” Adhering to this standard of excellence guarantees top-quality communication.
The Holy Father stressed, “In the Church, there is a great need to listen to and to hear one another.” When we listen without judgment and with openness, we can speak in a way that reflects God’s style of closeness, compassion and tenderness. The book of Proverbs (6:5) says, “A pleasant voice multiplies friends, and a gracious tongue multiplies courtesies.” In today’s world, it is crucial to communicate with compassion, to promote peace in areas affected by war and to create opportunities for dialogue and reconciliation in places where hostility prevails.
In a world that is divided and closed off, we have the ability to use words to create a civilised society. We are all expected to contribute to this endeavour, but those who work in the communications field are particularly motivated by a sense of responsibility to carry out their work as a mission.
Let us ask the Lord Jesus to assist us in communicating with clarity, openness and integrity. May the Holy Spirit lead us to listen to one another and enable us to speak the truth kindly and to look out for each other’s well-being.
(An abstract of the message from the Holy Father, Pope Francis for the 57th World Day of Communication)