Rome (Italy). On 24 January 2022, on the liturgical memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Pope Francis announces the Message for the 56th World Communications Day (GMCS), which will be celebrated this year on 29 May 2022:
“Listen with the ear of the heart”
In continuity with the theme of the 55th GMCS – “Come and see” (Jn 1:46). Communicating by meeting people where and how they are, the Message emphasizes another verb, “to listen”, defined as “decisive in the grammar of communication and a condition of authentic dialogue.”
The Pope identifies in the “boundless desire to be heard” the greatest need of human beings, “which often remains hidden, but which challenges anyone called to be an educator or formator, or in any case plays a role of communicator: parents and teachers, pastors and pastoral workers, information workers, and those who provide social or political service.”
Biblical references, including the “Shema ‘Israel – Listen, Israel” (Dt 6: 4), highlight God’s initiative, which is revealed with the word to which man responds with listening, as it happens to the newborn in corresponding to the look and voice of the mother and father.
“Of the five senses, the one privileged by God seems to be hearing, perhaps because it is less invasive, more discreet than sight, and therefore leaves the human being freer”, observes the Pope.
Pope Francis invites us to rediscover it as an essential dimension of man and his communication, to verify the quality of one’s listening, to pay attention to whom, to what and how one listens (Lk 8:18), in order to grow in the art of communicating, “whose center is not a theory or a technique, but the ‘capacity of the heart that makes proximity possible.’ (EG, 171)”
The real seat of listening is not the ears. “We all have ears”, says the Pope, but the heart: listening is a sense that involves the whole person, so much so that there is “an interior deafness worse than that physical”. Listening to the heart is therefore a gift to ask for, as did King Solomon who, although very young, had the wisdom to ask for “a heart that listens” (1 Kings 3-9).
Listening as the condition for good communication
The Holy Father alerts us about some attitudes against listening, such as overhearing, rather than open and loyal listening, ‘face to face’ with the interlocutor; the search for consensus and the audience, which leads to ‘talking to each other’ without really listening to each other; the construction of monologues to impose one’s point of view, which extinguishes the dialogue. “In true communication, however, the I and the you are both ‘outgoing’, reaching out to each other.”
In addition to being “the first indispensable ingredient of dialogue and good communication”, listening is the basis of good journalism, which cannot exist without the ability to listen “for a long time”, underlines the Pope, with the willingness to change one’s own point of view, to take the right direction:
“Listening to more voices, listening to each other, even in the Church, between brothers and sisters, allows us to exercise the art of discernment, which always appears as the ability to orient oneself in a symphony of voices.”
In the concreteness of the present time “wounded by the long pandemic”, the Pope recognizes as “very precious” the ability to listen to society, whose distrust in “official information” has caused an “infodemic”, that is, an overabundance of inaccurate information, to the detriment of the transparency and credibility of the information world.
A good listening could be the solution to many problems, including the reality of forced migration, in which, in order to overcome prejudices and melt hearts, one should listen to the stories of each migrant, giving a name to faces and stories. Pope Francis commends journalists who already do so and asks to encourage others.
Listen to each other in the Church
“Listening and listening to each other” is a fundamental need also in the Church, indeed, it is “the most precious and generative gift that we can offer one another” and an indispensable condition for participating in the work of “He who is the listener par excellence”. In pastoral action, the most important work is “the apostolate of the ear”, listening before speaking and giving free time to listen, as a first gesture of charity.
There is no lack of reference to the current Synod, “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission”, which must be supported with prayer, “so that it may be a great opportunity for mutual listening. Communion, in fact, is not the result of strategies and programs, but is built on mutual listening between brothers and sisters.”