Communicating hope and trust in our time: Pope Francis
Pope Francis has appealed to all who engage in communication to be “constructive” and to use the media - especially their modern technological advances - to reject prejudice and to “foster a culture of encounter”.
In his message for World Communications Day (which will be celebrated on Sunday 28 May 2017), the Pope says that a constant focus on bad news such as wars, terrorism, scandals and human failure creates a vicious circle of anxiety and fear. He also warns against misinformation that ignores human suffering and is naively “blind to the scandal of evil”.
“Life is not simply a bare succession of events,” writes Pope Francis, “but a history, a story waiting to be told through the choice of an interpretative lens that can select and gather the most relevant data. In and of itself, reality has no one clear meaning. Everything depends on the way we look at things, on the lens we use to view them. If we change that lens, reality itself appears different.”
Pope Francis states in his message for World Communications Day that it is confidence in God's Kingdom and in the mystery of Easter that should shape the way we communicate, rather than turning the tragedy of human suffering and the mystery of evil into entertainment, which can dull our consciences or lead to pessimism.
“This confidence,” he writes, “enables us to carry out our work - in all the different ways that communication takes place nowadays - with the conviction that it is possible to recognise and highlight the good news present in every story and in the face of each person.”
Opportunities and challenges of the media
Addressing his message not only to media professionals but to the “countless people (who) share news instantly and spread it widely”, he says: “I would like to encourage everyone to engage in constructive forms of communication that reject prejudice towards others and foster a culture of encounter, helping all of us to view the world around us with realism and trust.”
World Communications Day was established by Pope Paul VI in 1967 as an annual celebration to encourage us to reflect on the opportunities and challenges afforded to the Church to communicate the gospel message through modern means of social communication (the press, films, radio, television and - more recently - the internet). It came in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, which realised that the Church must engage fully with the modern world and is widely celebrated on the Sunday between the Ascension and Pentecost. 2017 is the 51st World Communications Day and the theme comes from the book of Isiah: "Fear not, for I am with you: communicating hope and trust in our time.” The message from the Pope is traditionally issued near 24 January, the feast day of the patron saint of journalists, St Francis de Sales.
In his message for 2017, Pope Francis concludes: “Today … the Spirit continues to sow in us a desire for the Kingdom, thanks to all those who, drawing inspiration from the Good News amid the dramatic events of our time, shine like beacons in the darkness of this world, shedding light along the way and opening ever new paths of confidence and hope.”
Pope Francis’ message for World Communications Day 2017 is available on the Vatican website.