Vatican City, 23 January 2014 (VIS) – This morning a press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office during which Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and Professor Chiara Giaccardi of the faculty of philosophy and letters of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, Italy, presented the Holy Father's message for the 48th World Day of Social Communication, entitled, “Communication at the service of an authentic culture of encounter”.
Archbishop Celli explained that “in the message, there clearly emerges the image of a Church who wishes to communicate, who wishes to enter into dialogue with men and women of today, aware of the role that has been entrusted to her in this context. The Pope has mentioned the theme of the culture of encounter many times, inviting the Church and her members to face various dimensions and needs specific to this culture. In the text two broad wavelengths can be seen. The first part of the message is directed towards the world of communication in the lay context, in which the Pope offers useful reflections for those who have not taken the religious option in life but who are nonetheless called upon to perceive or are already aware of the profound human value of the world of communication”.
“However, it is in addressing the Lord's disciples that the message demonstrates its specific tone, depth and frequency, and the reference to the parable of the good Samaritan is particularly evocative, as it helps us to understand communication in terms of proximity to others. … From this perspective, a challenge emerges to all of us who endeavour to be the Lord's disciples: to discover that the digital network can be a place rich in humanity, a network not of cables but rather of human beings”.
The president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications emphasised that the message is “eminently Franciscan”, as it shows a profound harmony between the image of the Church as portrayed by the Pope and the world of communication. “It is undeniable that speaking about the culture of encounter means focusing on others, and the Church may not abdicate her role of 'accompanying, of going beyond merely listening; a Church who walks the path alongside us'. Three words resound in these texts: neighbourliness, solidarity, encounter. … If the culture of encounter means attention to and solidarity with man in the reality of the path he walks daily, then it must be able, through respectful dialogue, to lead today's men and women towards the encounter with Christ”.
In her address, Professor Giaccardi observed that, taking as a starting point the fundamental dimension of encounter, the Pope's document offers at least three clear indications for interpreting the contemporary world where the means of communication, above all the digital media, are almost omnipresent. “First of all”, she said, “communication is by definition a human, rather than a technological conquest. Technology may facilitate or hinder, but it does not determine. … If the anthropological dimension prevails over the technological, then any form of determinism should be denied. The internet does not make us more sociable, nor does it cause us to be more alone. We must not, therefore, use it as an alibi or as a scapegoat instead of assuming our own responsibilities. Secondly, understanding communication in terms of solidarity, rather than transmission (which may easily take place from a distance), has profound implications for education, formation, training, and catechesis. … Thirdly, when the word and life are in profound harmony, the communicator is credible. Witness, or rather the word incarnate, brings warmth and beauty to all paths, digital ones included”.
Finally, Giaccardi commented on the image of the good Samaritan, referred to by the Pope in the message as the “parable of the communicator”, emphasising that “the Samaritan was neither a technician nor a specialist”, and that “knowledge or social prestige are not enough to make us capable of communicating, let alone fully human; it is a reproach to the 'Church of functionaries', but also to journalists (and intellectuals) and their world which is certainly not immune to self-referentiality”.
“Journalists, and also academics, must decide which side they are on: the world is injured and journalists depict this, by their 'right to inform', claiming neutrality and objectivity, then pass on to the next story. Or worse, they can be scoundrels who manipulate and distort reality, without giving due consideration to the consequences of their actions and their words, in order to obtain personal advantage. Or, on the other hand, they can be like the good Samaritan, who looks benevolently upon the wounded … who tries to help him as best he can, and calls others to action, giving rise to a chain reaction on the basis of his witness”.