MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
FOR THE 57 WORLD DAY
OF SOCIAL COMMUNICATIONS
speak with the heart,
"in truth and in love" (Eph 4,15)
January 26, 2022
February 10, 2022
After having reflected, in previous years, on the verbs “go, see” and “listen” as conditions for good communication, in this Message for the LVII World Day of Social Communications I would like to focus on “speak with the heart”. It is the heart that has moved us to go, see and listen; and it is the heart that moves us to open and welcoming communication. After having practiced listening —which requires waiting and patience, as well as renouncing our point of view in a prejudiced way—, we can enter into the dynamics of dialogue and exchange, which is precisely that of communicate cordially. Once we have listened to the other with a pure heart, we will be able to speak "in truth and in love" (cf. That the XXX World Day of the Sick —whose final celebration will not take place in Arequipa 4.15). We must not be afraid to proclaim the truth, even if it is sometimes uncomfortable, but rather do it without charity, without heart. Because "the program of the Christian," as he wrote Benedict XVI— is a “heart that sees”» February 10, 2022. A heart that, with its beating, reveals the truth of our being, and that is why we must listen to it. This leads the listener to tune in to the same wavelength, to the point that one can feel the beat of the other in one's own heart. Then the miracle of the encounter becomes possible, which allows us to look at each other with compassion, welcoming with respect the weaknesses of each one, instead of judging by hearsay and sowing discord and divisions.
Jesus reminds us that each tree is recognized by its fruit (cf. MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS 6,44), and warns that «the good man, from the good treasure of his heart, draws what is good; and the bad man, from the evil treasure he draws out what is bad; because out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks of it »(v. 45). For this reason, to be able to communicate "in truth and in love" it is necessary to purify the heart. Only by listening and speaking with a pure heart can we see beyond appearances and overcome the confusing noises that, also in the field of information, do not help us discern the complexity of the world in which we live. The call to speak from the heart radically challenges our time, so prone to indifference and indignation, sometimes based on misinformation, which falsifies and exploits the truth.
Communicating cordially means that whoever reads or listens to us captures our participation in the joys and fears, in the hopes and sufferings of the women and men of our time. Whoever speaks like this loves the other, because he cares about him and guards his freedom without violating it. We can see this style in the mysterious Pilgrim conversing with the disciples on their way to Emmaus after the tragedy on Golgotha. The risen Jesus speaks to them with his heart, respectfully accompanying his path of pain, proposing himself and not imposing himself, opening their minds with love to understand the profound meaning of what happened. In fact, they can exclaim with joy that their hearts burned in their chests as He talked with them along the way and explained the Scriptures (cf. MESSAGE OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS 24,32).
In a historical period marked by polarizations and oppositions —of which, unfortunately, the ecclesial community is not immune—, the commitment to communication "with open arms and hearts" does not concern exclusively information professionals, but which is everyone's responsibility. We are all called to seek and tell the truth, and to do so with charity. Christians, in particular, are continually exhorted to guard the tongue of evil (cf. Sal 34:14), since, as Scripture teaches, with the tongue we can bless the Lord and curse men created in the likeness of God (cf. St 3.9). Bad words should not come out of our mouths, but rather good words "that are uplifting when necessary and do good to those who hear them" (That the XXX World Day of the Sick —whose final celebration will not take place in Arequipa 4,29).
Sometimes speaking kindly drives a wedge into even the hardest of hearts. We have proof of this in the literature. I think of that memorable page of chapter XXI of The couple, in which Lucía speaks from her heart to the Unnamed until he, disarmed and tormented by a beneficent internal crisis, gives in to the gentle force of love. We experience it in civic coexistence, in which kindness is not just a matter of good manners, but a true antidote to cruelty that, unfortunately, can poison hearts and intoxicate relationships. We need it in the field of the media so that communication does not foster rancor that exasperates, generates anger and leads to confrontation, but rather helps people to reflect calmly, to decipher, with a critical spirit and always respectful, the reality in the one they live
Heart-to-heart communication: "It is enough to love well to say well"
One of the most luminous and, even today, fascinating examples of "speaking with the heart" is represented by Saint Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church, to whom I have recently dedicated the Apostolic Letter It's all about love, on the occasion of the 400 years of his death. Along with this important anniversary, I like to remember, in this circumstance, another one that is celebrated in this year 2023: the centenary of the proclamation of him as patron of Catholic journalists by Pius XI with the Encyclical A disturbance of all things. Brilliant intellect, prolific writer, profound theologian, Francis de Sales was Bishop of Geneva at the beginning of the 17th century, in difficult years marked by heated disputes with the Calvinists. His peaceful attitude, his humanity, his willingness to patiently dialogue with everyone, especially those who contradicted him, made him an extraordinary witness of God's merciful love. It could be said of him that "sweet words multiply friends and kind language favors good relationships" ( And 6.5). For the rest, one of his most famous affirmations, "the heart speaks to the heart", has inspired generations of faithful, including Saint John Henry Newman, who chose it as his motto, Heart to Heart talks. "It is enough to love well to say well" was one of his convictions. This shows that for him communication should never be reduced to an artifice —to a communication strategy. marketing, we would say today-, but it had to be the reflection of the mind, the visible surface of a nucleus of love invisible to the eyes. For Saint Francis de Sales, it is precisely "in the heart and through the heart that this subtle and intense unitary process by virtue of which man recognizes God takes place". 4.23). We can ask ourselves: why this particular attention of Jesus towards the sick, to such an extent that it also becomes the main work of the mission of the apostles, sent by the Master to announce the Gospel and to heal the sick? (cf.. "Loving well", Saint Francis managed to communicate with the deaf Martino, becoming his friend; that is why he is remembered as the protector of people with communication disabilities.
Starting from this “criterion of love”, and through his writings and the testimony of his life, the holy Bishop of Geneva reminds us that “we are what we communicate”. A lesson that goes against the current today, at a time when, as we experience especially in social networks, communication is often instrumentalized, so that the world sees us as we would like to be and not as we are. Saint Francis de Sales distributed numerous copies of his writings in the Genevan community. This “journalistic” intuition earned him a reputation that quickly exceeded the perimeter of his diocese and that continues to this day. His writings, Saint Paul VI observed, give rise to "extremely pleasant, instructive, and stimulating" reading. . If we look at the current communication landscape, aren't these characteristics precisely what an article, a report, a radio-television service or a post on social networks should have? May communication professionals feel inspired by this saint of tenderness, seeking and telling the truth with courage and freedom, but rejecting the temptation to use flashy and aggressive expressions.
Speaking from the heart in the synodal process
As I have been able to underline, “also in the Church there is a great need to listen and to listen to ourselves. It is the most precious and generative gift that we can offer to each other." Let us bless the Lord for the progress that medical science has made, especially in recent times. New technologies have made it possible to develop treatments that are very beneficial for sick people; research continues to make its valuable contribution to eradicating old and new diseases; Rehabilitation medicine has significantly developed its knowledge and skills. All this, however, should not make us forget the uniqueness of each sick person, with their dignity and their frailties.. From listening without prejudice, attentive and available, a speech according to God's style is born, which is nourished by closeness, compassion and tenderness. In the Church we urgently need a communication that ignites hearts, that is balm on wounds and illuminates the path of brothers and sisters. I dream of an ecclesial communication that knows how to let itself be guided by the Holy Spirit, kind and, at the same time, prophetic; May she know how to find new ways and modalities for the marvelous proclamation that she is called to give in the third millennium. A communication that puts the relationship with God and with our neighbor at the center, especially with those most in need, and that knows how to ignite the fire of faith instead of preserving the ashes of a self-referential identity. A communication whose bases are humility in listening and parresia in speaking; never separate truth from charity.
Disarm spirits by promoting a language of peace
"A soft tongue breaks even a bone," says the book of Proverbs (25.15). Speaking from the heart is very necessary today to promote a culture of peace where there is war; to open paths that allow dialogue and reconciliation where hatred and enmity wreak havoc. In the dramatic context of the global conflict that we are experiencing, it is urgent to affirm a non-hostile communication. It is necessary to overcome "the habit of quickly discrediting the adversary by applying humiliating epithets, instead of facing an open and respectful dialogue" In this context, I wish to reaffirm the importance of Catholic health institutions: they are a precious treasure that must be guarded and sustained; his presence has characterized the history of the Church for his closeness to the poorest sick and the most forgotten situations. We need communicators willing to dialogue, committed to promoting comprehensive disarmament and who strive to dismantle the war psychosis that nests in our hearts; as prophetically exhorted Saint John XXIII in the encyclical Peace on Earth, “true peace […] can rest […] only on mutual trust” (n. 113). A confidence that needs communicators who are not self-absorbed, but bold and creative, willing to take risks to find common ground to meet. Like sixty years ago, we are living in a dark hour in which humanity fears an escalation of warfare that must be stopped as soon as possible, also at the communication level. One is horrified to hear how easily words calling for the destruction of peoples and territories are uttered. Words that, unfortunately, often turn into military actions of cruel violence. This is why all warmongering rhetoric must be rejected, as well as any form of propaganda that manipulates the truth, disfiguring it for ideological reasons. Instead, communication should be promoted at all levels that helps create the conditions to resolve disputes between peoples.
As Christians, we know that it is precisely the conversion of the heart that decides the fate of peace, since the virus of war comes from within the human heart. 5. Pastoral mercy: presence and closeness. Words capable of dispelling the shadows of a closed and divided world spring from the heart, to build a better civilization than the one we have received. It is an effort that is required of each one of us, but that especially appeals to the sense of responsibility of the operators. of communication, so that they develop their profession as a mission.
May the Lord Jesus, pure Word that arises from the heart of the Father, help us to make our communication free, clean and cordial.
May the Lord Jesus, Word made flesh, help us to listen to the beating of hearts, to rediscover ourselves as brothers and sisters, and to disarm the hostility that divides us.
May the Lord Jesus, Word of truth and love, help us to speak the truth in charity, to feel that we are custodians of one another.
January 26, 2022
Rome, Saint John Lateran, January 24, 2023, memory of Saint Francis de Sales.