The Sunday before Pentecost is observed as World Communication Sunday in Catholic Churches. Today, May 13, is the 52nd World Communication Day. This Sunday also happens to be the second Sunday of May, which is also popularly called ‘Mothers’ Day’. Mothers are supposedly good communicators (and so are Mothers-in-Law, I hear), so this is a very special Sunday for all Mothers who are also communicators!
A fortnight ago, Pope Francis told members of Catholic news organisations that they must be willing to adapt to the ever-evolving age of technology in order to effectively proclaim the Gospel to their readers.
Pope Francis has a few words that our Catholic parish priests, diocesan administrators, and others need to reflect on. The first point he made was that the speed of information today surpasses our capacity for reflection. Just think of how quickly we hit the ‘forward’ button on a WhatsApp message! And that goes for several priests and nuns who pass on potentially manipulated and false information and photographs. ”
Jesus and Mary appearing on clouds, tree formations and other badly photoshopped locations are as much part of false and manipulated news as are fabricated letters spread around by mischevious anti-Church elements to rake up the bogey of so-called religious conversion! I have been shocked and scandalized when some priests actually defended the spreading of such visual lies as ‘increasing the faith”. I’m sure that Jesus hasn’t encouraged bearing false witness through morphed photographs. And the last time I checked, bearing false witness was still one of the basic ten commandments, along with ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife’!
The second important phrase is that Church members – all of us, not only the young – are exposed to the impact and influence of a culture of haste and superficiality. Let us reflect on this awhile, and see how this is true for us. A photo-op is more important, two lines in the local newspaper more desirable to many of our organisations and institutions, and so we hastily organise candle marches, human chains, get our students or church members to throw together flashy activity. And we hardly reflect upon whether the time spent is really used well, with a purpose. Or are we just doing another ‘Me too’ event. For what?
Building upon this, Pope Francis says that we risk reducing the Church’s mission to a pastoral ministry of applause, to a dumbing down of thought … and the result will obviously be a widespread disorientation of opinions that are not in agreement. In other words, everyone is running around like chickens without heads. We are perplexed, bothered, take everything at face value, and generally are not at peace. We have no peace. We are not Instruments of Peace.
[Particularly in today’s world where “the speed of information surpasses our capacity of reflection,” church members are exposed “to the impact and influence of a culture of haste and superficiality” and risk reducing the church’s mission to a “pastoral ministry of applause, to a dumbing down of thought and to a widespread disorientation of opinions that are not in agreement”. Pope Francis as quoted in The Tablet]
As communicators, what is our role in the fast developing world of cyber media and social media? Is the Catholic Church in India, as represented by our clergy, religious and the CBCI really in tune with the times, or is everyone mortally afraid of the new media?
In the context of the unwillingness to let go of the ‘traditional’ mass media, he made a significant comment.“Authentic servants of tradition are those who, while keeping memory alive, know how to discern the signs of the times and open new paths,” Pope Francis said.
The Pope reminded us new digital platforms require significant technological updates. That probably scares a lot of us, who are unwilling to get on the digital express. He suggested that we must also be willing to accept that “the attachment to the past may prove to be a dangerous temptation”.
But, he said, Catholic journalists and news organisations must realise that “only by shutting down the noise of the world and our own gossip will it be possible to listen, which remains the first condition of every communication”.
Recalling the words of Blessed Paul VI, Pope Francis said Catholic newspapers should not only report news to “make an impression or gain clients” but rather to educate their readers “to think and to judge” for themselves. “Catholic communicators avoid rigidities that stifle or imprison,” he said.
Good Catholic communicators, the Holy Father says, do not cage the Holy Spirit, but seek to let it fly, to let it breathe within the soul. They never allow reality to give way to appearances, beauty to vulgarity, social friendship to conflict. They cultivate and strengthen every sprout of life and goodness.”
Amen to That.