Each one of us communicates messages every day through our relationships, actions and words. It is good to pause occasionally and ask ourselves whether in our communications, we communicate Jesus Christ, His values and His message.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ
This Sunday (1st June) the Church reminds us of the great responsibility that is ours for the world of communications. It is not something for which “others” have responsibility. Each one of us communicates messages every day through our relationships, actions and words. It is good to pause occasionally and ask ourselves whether in our communications, we communicate Jesus Christ, His values and His message.
We may ask too, how are we to carry out this task of witnessing to Jesus in the world and in our engagement with the media, both traditional and new?
In his Message for this World Communications Day, the Holy Father focuses on bringing a Christian presence to the world of digital communications. Today, newspaper sales are in freefall, TV audiences are ever more fragmented, and more and more communication takes place on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. It is here that the Pope has therefore placed much emphasis.
Some have questioned whether the Church should be present in such forums. The Holy Father answers that question head on: ‘As I have frequently observed, if a choice has to be made between a bruised Church which goes out to the streets and a Church suffering from self-absorption, I certainly prefer the first. Those “streets” are the world where people live and where they can be reached, both effectively and affectively. The digital highway is one of them, a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope. By means of the internet, the Christian message can reach “to the ends of the earth”.’
The Pope offers us clear guidelines on how to use social media well – guidelines which can apply more widely to all our communications and relationships.
He suggests our communications need to be “neighbourly”. Have you ever considered social media contacts as “neighbours” to be loved and helped?
He calls for us to use “tenderness” in our social media engagement – a term not often applied to the jungle of opinions and insults often found in 140 character tweets!
And he warns us: “Effective Christian witness is not about bombarding people with religious messages, but about our willingness to be available to others by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence.”
He concludes: “Let our communication be a balm which relieves pain, and a fine wine which gladdens hearts. May the light we bring to others not be the result of cosmetics or special effects, but rather of our being loving and merciful neighbours to those wounded and left on the side of the road. Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world. The Church needs to be concerned for, and present in, the world of communication, in order to dialogue with people today and to help them encounter Christ.“
As you reflect on the Holy Father’s words, I would ask you to think seriously about how you can be a better communicator of Jesus Christ in your daily life, both that part of your life you live in daily encounters and that part lived in the digital world.
I would ask you too, to pray for our Catholic communicators – those whose task it is to navigate the dangers in the world of the media and present the Church’s message in all its freshness and beauty.
And finally I ask you to be generous in supporting the annual collection which allows us to respond to the demands made on us by the press, take new initiatives and bring the message and values of Jesus Christ to the ever-changing but hugely influential world of the media.
President, Bishops’ Conference of Scotland