Rome (Italy). On 24 January 2023, on the liturgical memory of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists and communicators, Pope Francis publishes the Message for the 57th World Communications Day (GCMS), which this year is celebrated in many countries on May 21:
Speak from the heart. “Living the truth in love” (Eph 4:15)
The message stands in continuity with the previous ones in which the Holy Father had emphasized the verbs “go, see, listen” as conditions for good communication. Now he wishes to dwell on “speaking with the heart“ since, “It is the heart that has moved us to go, see, and listen and it is the heart that moves us to an open and welcoming communication”.
Since “for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Cf. Lk 6:44), a communication “according to truth in charity”, observes the Pope, is the fruit of a purified heart, which allows us to see beyond appearances and helps to discern in the complexity of today’s world. For this reason, “The call to speak from the heart radically challenges our time, so prone to indifference and indignation, sometimes even on the basis of misinformation, which falsifies and exploits the truth”.
Those who speak from the heart love the other, have them ‘at heart’, guard their freedom, with a style that proposes and does not impose itself, like that of the mysterious Wanderer in respectfully accompanying in their pain, the journey of the disciples to Emmaus. From this ‘heart to heart’ communication, they come to “exclaim with joy that their hearts were burning in their breasts” as He conversed with them.
The Message is not addressed exclusively to information workers. The commitment to communication “from the heart and with open arms” is everyone’s responsibility. “We are all called to seek and to speak the truth and to do it with charity”, especially as Christians, who are exhorted to keep their tongues from evil (cf. Ps 34:14) and rather to speak words that edify and help those who listen.
“Amiable speaking”, which knows how to open a breach even in the most hardened hearts, such as that of Lucia of Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed) who “speaks with the heart” to the unnamed, until he “gives in to the gentle power of love”, can be an “antidote to cruelty.” The Pope highlights that this is needed above all in the media, “so that communication does not foment a malice that exasperates, generates anger, and leads to confrontation, but helps people to reflect calmly, to decipher with a critical and always respectful spirit the reality in which they live”.
Heart to heart communication
An illustrious example and teacher of “speaking from the heart” is Saint Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church, to whom the Holy Father recently dedicated the Apostolic Letter Totum amoris est 400 years after his death, and the centenary of his proclamation as patron saint of Catholic journalists by Pius XI, with the Encyclical Rerum omnium perturbationem.
Brilliant intellect, fruitful writer, theologian of great depth”; qualities which, combined with a “mild attitude, humanity, disposition to dialogue patiently with everyone”, make the Bishop of Geneva “an extraordinary witness of God’s merciful love”, so much so that one of his most famous statements, “heart speaks to heart”, has inspired generations of faithful, including St. John Henry Newman, convinced that “It is enough to love well to speak well”.
“Loving well” is what allows Francis de Sales to communicate with the deaf-mute Martino, so much so that he is also remembered as the protector of people with communication disabilities. It is the “criterion of love” with which he reminds us that “we are what we communicate”. This is often not the case in social networks, where you present yourself as you want to be, not as you are. Today’s reports should also arouse a “highly pleasant, instructive, and stimulating” reading, as St. Paul VI observes regarding the writings circulated in large numbers, according to the well-known ‘journalistic’ intuition of the Saint. Pope Francis hopes that communication workers “may feel inspired by this saint of tenderness, seeking and telling the truth with courage and freedom, but rejecting the temptation to use striking and aggressive expressions”.
Speak with the heart in the synodal process
In the ongoing synodal process, he underlines once again the need, strong also in the Church, to listen and to listen to one another, as a precious and generative gift. The need “for a communication that lights up hearts, that is balm on wounds, and sheds light on the path of brothers and sisters”. And he expresses his dream:
“I dream of an ecclesial communication that knows how to let itself be guided by the Holy Spirit, gentle and at the same time prophetic, that knows how to find new forms and modalities for the wonderful proclamation it is called to bring into the third millennium. A communication that focuses on the relationship with God and with one’s neighbor, especially the neediest, and which knows how to light the fire of faith rather than preserve the ashes of a self-referential identity (…) that never separates truth from charity”.
Promote a language of peace
From the context of global conflict, the urgency to speak from the heart to promote a culture of peace, to affirm non-hostile communication emerges forcefully, “We need communicators willing to dialogue, involved in promoting integral disarmament, and committed to dismantling the war psychosis that lurks in our hearts”. The reference is to the Encyclical Pacem in terris, 60 years after its publication when, like today, there was a ‘dark hour’ in which there was fear of an escalation of war and Saint Pope John 23rd said: ‘True peace can be built only in mutual trust” (n. 61). A trust that needs communicators who are not entrenched, but bold and creative, ready to take risks to find common ground in which to meet”, concludes Pope Francis.
As Christians, it is even clearer that in the human heart, thanks to its conversion, the destiny of peace is decided. The right words spring from the heart to dispel the shadows of a closed and divided world and build a better civilization than the one received.
Concluding the Message, the Pontiff appeals to the effort of each one, but above all to the responsibility of communication workers, and invokes the Lord’s help to “make our communication free, clean, and cordial”, to “disarm the hostility that divides”, to “speak the truth in charity”, and “to feel that we are guardians of each other”.