Pope Francis’ message for the World Communications Day, which is issued annually on January 24 marking the feast of Saint Francis de Sales (the bishop of Geneva in the 17th century who excelled in addressing all shades of European society of his time), is worthy consideration as it carries a title “Come and See”, and a subtitle, “Communicating by Encountering People as They Are”.
Today we find a link between the message for the World Communications Day and the message which was issued early this year and titled, “A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace”. Humans are the focus of the peace process, as well as the focus of media work, and without which noble work cannot prevail in this life. As for the media, the Pope draws attention to the invitation “Come and See” in its capacity as a suggestion for any communicative expression that needs to be clear and honest, namely in editing a newspaper is a case relevant to electronic publishing, to ordinary preaching in houses of worship, as well as to political or social communication. He says that there is a difference between staying in your office or at home to weave news about people as you will or go out to meet them amidst the circumstances prevailing in their daily lives. Here he uses a popular term namely the need to “consume shoe soles,” implying getting up and going out and walk towards humans and learning about their real life, regardless of the life we think they are living.
His Holiness lauds the courage of several journalists and media people, who exposed their lives to grave dangers during this period, including those who covered events related to the persecution of religious minorities in several parts of the world. He also talks about the courage of maintaining media coverage amid the Corona pandemic, as journalists and the media people exposed themselves to the dangers of contracting the pandemic. Yet, he warns against talking about the vaccines presented at the present time, as it is a matter that concerns the rich countries at the expense of the rights of the poor. The message calls on the media people to be witnesses of the truth, and to verify every matter subject to publication in view of malicious and tendentious news. “The dangers of social communication that are bereft of verification are now clear to everyone. We learned a long time ago how news and even images can be easily manipulated for thousands of reasons, and sometimes even for just vile narcissism. This critical awareness does not push us to consider this tool as evil, but it rather pushes us to a greater capacity for discernment and a more mature sense of responsibility, whether when the contents are disseminated or when they are received.
In the end, let us pray with the media people, on their annual feast, so that they can serve as truly messengers of truth, goodness and beauty, and let us say with them: O Lord, teach us to go out and start searching for the truth. Teach us to go and see, teach us to listen and not to resort to prejudices. Teach us not to draw hasty conclusions. Teach us to go where no one wants to go, to take the time to understand, to pay attention to essential issues and not to allow trivial issues to distract us, as well as to distinguish the delusional appearance from the truth. O Lord, grant us the grace to know your presence in the world and to truthfully tell what we have seen.