By Sarah Mac Donald - 25 January, 2015
Archbishop Eamon Martin, chair of the Bishops’ Council for Communications, welcomes this year’s message from Pope Francis.
The theme of the message, which was released on Saturday, is ‘Communicating the Family: A Privileged Place of Encounter with the Gift of Love’.
Responding to the Pope’s message, the Primate of Ireland said, “Pope Francis expresses a clear and fundamental message for the benefit of the whole human family and it relates to our earliest shared experience and common bond.”
Elsewhere in his message, Archbishop Martin said the Pope tells us that “it is in the context of the family that we first learn how to communicate.”
The Archbishop says this message is offered to us as we prepare for the Synod of the Family which will take place in the Vatican during October, guided by the theme ‘The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World’.
Dr Martin urged everyone with a love of family to reflect upon the Pope’s” challenging message.”
The 2015 communications message is the second from Pope Francis and, while it was published on the Feast of St Francis de Sales, the patron of journalists, writers and editors, the actual celebration of World Day for Social Communications takes place on 17 May next, the Sunday before Pentecost.
In his message, the Pope says families should be seen as a resource rather than as a problem for society.
‘Communicating the Family: A Privileged Place of Encounter with the Gift of Love’ states that families at their best actively communicate by their witness the beauty and the richness of the relationship between man and woman, and between parents and children.
“We are not fighting to defend the past. Rather, with patience and trust, we are working to build a better future for the world in which we live,” Pope Francis warns.
Explaining his choice of the family as a subject for World Communications Day, the Pope said in his introduction to the message that he thought it was appropriate as the family had been the subject of profound reflection by the Church through the two Synods: the recent extraordinary assembly and the ordinary assembly scheduled for next October.
“It is in the context of the family that we first learn how to communicate,” he explains.
The family is a community which provides help, which celebrates life and is fruitful. “Once we realise this, we will once more be able to see how the family continues to be a rich human resource, as opposed to a problem or an institution in crisis”.
However, at times the media can tend to present the family as a kind of abstract model which has to be accepted or rejected, defended or attacked, rather than as a living reality.
Or else a grounds for ideological clashes rather than as a setting where we can all learn what it means to communicate in a love received and returned.
More than anywhere else, the Pope highlighted, the family is where we daily experience our own limits and those of others, the problems great and small entailed in living peacefully with others.
The Pope also warns that a perfect family does not exist.
“We should not be fearful of imperfections, weakness or even conflict, but rather learn how to deal with them constructively”.
The family, where we keep loving one another despite our limits and sins, thus becomes a school of forgiveness. Forgiveness is itself a process of communication. When contrition is expressed and accepted, it becomes possible to restore and rebuild the communication which broke down.
A child who has learned in the family to listen to others, to speak respectfully and to express his or her view without negating that of others, will be a force for dialogue and reconciliation in society.
When it comes to the challenges of communication, families who have children with one or more disabilities have much to teach us, Pope Francis underlined.
A motor, sensory or mental limitation can be a reason for closing in on ourselves, but it can also become, thanks to the love of parents, siblings, and friends, an incentive to openness, sharing and ready communication with all.
He said it can also help schools, parishes and associations to become more welcoming and inclusive of everyone.
In a world where people often curse, use foul language, speak badly of others, sow discord and poison our human environment by gossip, the family can teach us to understand communication as a blessing.
In situations apparently dominated by hatred and violence, where families are separated by stone walls or the no less impenetrable walls of prejudice and resentment, where there seem to be good reasons for saying “enough is enough”, it is only by blessing rather than cursing, by visiting rather than repelling, and by accepting rather than fighting, that we can break the spiral of evil, show that goodness is always possible, and educate our children to fellowship.
Today the modern media, which are an essential part of life for young people in particular, can be both a help and a hindrance to communication in and between families, the Pope states.
The media can be a hindrance if they become a way to avoid listening to others, to evade physical contact, to fill up every moment of silence and rest, so that we forget that “silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist.” (Benedict XVI, Message for the 2012 World Communications Day).
According to the Pope, the media can help communication when they enable people to share their stories, to stay in contact with distant friends, to thank others or to seek their forgiveness, and to open the door to new encounters.
By growing daily in our awareness of the vital importance of encountering others, these “new possibilities”, we will employ technology wisely, rather than letting ourselves be dominated by it.
But he underlined that here too, parents are the primary educators, and they cannot be left to their own devices.
“The Christian community is called to help them in teaching children how to live in a media environment in a way consonant with the dignity of the human person and service of the common good.”
“The great challenge facing us today is to learn once again how to talk to one another, not simply how to generate and consume information,” he warned.
He said generating and consuming information is a tendency which the important and influential modern communications media can encourage.
“Information is important, but it is not enough. All too often things get simplified, different positions and viewpoints are pitted against one another, and people are invited to take sides, rather than to see things as a whole.”
The family, Pope Francis warned, is not a subject of debate or a terrain for ideological skirmishes.
“Rather, it is an environment in which we learn to communicate in an experience of closeness, a setting where communication takes place, a ‘communicating community’.”