By Ann Marie Foley - 01 June, 2014
On this the 48th World Communications Day Pope Francis outlines the modern world which seems to be growing ever “smaller” and makes it easier for people to be neighbours. Travel and communications technology, and even globalization bring people closer together, yet there are divisions, not least what Pope Francis calls the “scandalous gap between the opulence of the wealthy and the utter destitution of the poor.”
The Pope states that the modern communication has made unprecedented advances.
“The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God,” he said.
However he cautions that there are some drawbacks. For example the speed with which information is communicated exceeds the human capacity for reflection and judgement. It can isolate people from their neighbours, from those closest to them. Also those who lack access to social media might be left behind.
“While these drawbacks are real, they do not justify rejecting social media; rather, they remind us that communication is ultimately a human rather than technological achievement,” said the Pope.
He suggests that people need to see communication in terms of trying to be neighbourly. The parable of ‘Good Samaritan’ is the parable about good communication in that the Good Samaritan not only gets close to the man but he takes responsibility for him.
“It is not enough to be passers-by on the digital highways, simply “connected”; connections need to grow into true encounters. We cannot live apart, closed in on ourselves. We need to love and to be loved,” said the Pope. “Personal engagement is the basis of the trustworthiness of a communicator.”
Pope Francis also spoke of his preference for the “bruised Church which goes out to the streets” and the digital highway is one of those streets, a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope.
“By means of the internet, the Christian message can reach “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Keeping the doors of our churches open also means keeping them open in the digital environment so that people, whatever their situation in life, can enter, and so that the Gospel can go out to reach everyone,” he said.
He said that effective Christian witness is not about “bombarding people with religious messages”. Rather we have to be able to dialogue with the men and women of today, to understand their expectations, doubts and hopes, and to bring them the Gospel.
“To dialogue means to believe that the “other” has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective. Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute,” he said.
The Pope returns to the Good Samaritan for his concluding remarks and stating how he tended to the wounds of the injured man by pouring oil and wine over them.
“Let our communication be a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts. May the light we bring to others not be the result of cosmetics or special effects, but rather of our being loving and merciful “neighbours” to those wounded and left on the side of the road. Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world.”