Each year the pope issues a statement for World Communications Day, which will be held May 17, to offer a spiritual reflection on the nature of global communications. This year, Pope Francis focuses on the family. That is hardly surprising in that, this year in particular, the family is a central concern for the Church. We’ll have the World Meeting on the Family this September in Philadelphia, at which the pope will be present, and the Second Synod of Bishops on the Family. Families today face incredible stress, not least of which is that of mass media and social media, which tend to stress individualism at the expense of family unity and family customs. The pope gets to the heart of the issue.
True communications is dialogue, not monologue. Secondly, at its most basic level, real communications builds up relationships between people, in families and elsewhere. Here is a taste of what he has to say:
The Christian community is called to help parents 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. The latter is a tendency that our 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.
Modern communication, by its very nature, is virtual. Everything comes to us second-hand and is filtered through vast networks of people and technology. For example, Twitter offers an abbreviated, intensified form of communications that is anything but intimate. In fact, it is just the opposite. Messages of 140 characters lend themselves not to nuanced, sensitive discussion, but to shouting. For Catholics, communication has a different goal. It is to build, not tear down, to foster understanding, not quick judgment, to spread love, not hate. Modern communications technology can be put at the service of such objectives, but it takes work. Social media can certainly be a force for good. The vast network of Catholic blogs, Twitter feeds, web sites and other digital offerings testifies to this fact. To harness this force, Catholics need to remember that at the core of their message is the Good News.
-Joseph Sinasac, Publishing Director