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Thursday, January 23, 2014


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”.


Vatican City, 23 January 2014 (VIS) – “Communication at the service of an authentic culture of encounter” is the title of Pope Francis' message for the 48th World Day of Social Communications, the only world day established by Vatican Council II (Inter Mirifica, 1963), which is celebrated on the Sunday before the feast of Pentecost (which falls on 1 June 2014). The message is dated 24 January, memorial of St. Francis of Sales, patron saint of communicators. The full text of the message is published below:

“Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“Today we are living in a world which is growing ever 'smaller' and where, as a result, it would seem to be easier for all of us to be neighbours. Developments in travel and communications technology are bringing us closer together and making us more connected, even as globalization makes us increasingly interdependent. Nonetheless, divisions, which are sometimes quite deep, continue to exist within our human family. On the global level we see a scandalous gap between the opulence of the wealthy and the utter destitution of the poor. Often we need only walk the streets of a city to see the contrast between people living on the street and the brilliant lights of the store windows. We have become so accustomed to these things that they no longer unsettle us. Our world suffers from many forms of exclusion, marginalization and poverty, to say nothing of conflicts born of a combination of economic, political, ideological, and, sadly, even religious motives.

“In a world like this, media can help us to feel closer to one another, creating a sense of the unity of the human family which can in turn inspire solidarity and serious efforts to ensure a more dignified life for all. Good communication helps us to grow closer, to know one another better, and ultimately, to grow in unity. The walls which divide us can be broken down only if we are prepared to listen and learn from one another. We need to resolve our differences through forms of dialogue which help us grow in understanding and mutual respect. A culture of encounter demands that we be ready not only to give, but also to receive. Media can help us greatly in this, especially nowadays, when the networks of human communication have made unprecedented advances. The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God.

“This is not to say that certain problems do not exist. The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgement, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of self-expression. The variety of opinions being aired can be seen as helpful, but it also enables people to barricade themselves behind sources of information which only confirm their own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests. The world of communications can help us either to expand our knowledge or to lose our bearings. The desire for digital connectivity can have the effect of isolating us from our neighbours, from those closest to us. We should not overlook the fact that those who for whatever reason lack access to social media run the risk of being left behind.

“While these drawbacks are real, they do not justify rejecting social media; rather, they remind us that communication is ultimately a human rather than technological achievement. What is it, then, that helps us, in the digital environment, to grow in humanity and mutual understanding? We need, for example, to recover a certain sense of deliberateness and calm. This calls for time and the ability to be silent and to listen. We need also to be patient if we want to understand those who are different from us. People only express themselves fully when they are not merely tolerated, but know that they are truly accepted. If we are genuinely attentive in listening to others, we will learn to look at the world with different eyes and come to appreciate the richness of human experience as manifested in different cultures and traditions. We will also learn to appreciate more fully the important values inspired by Christianity, such as the vision of the human person, the nature of marriage and the family, the proper distinction between the religious and political spheres, the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, and many others.

“How, then, can communication be at the service of an authentic culture of encounter? What does it mean for us, as disciples of the Lord, to encounter others in the light of the Gospel? In spite of our own limitations and sinfulness, how do we draw truly close to one another? These questions are summed up in what a scribe – a communicator – once asked Jesus: 'And who is my neighbour?' (Lk 10:29). This question can help us to see communication in terms of 'neighbourliness'. We might paraphrase the question in this way: How can we be 'neighbourly' in our use of the communications media and in the new environment created by digital technology? I find an answer in the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is also a parable about communication. Those who communicate, in effect, become neighbours. The Good Samaritan not only draws nearer to the man he finds half dead on the side of the road; he takes responsibility for him. Jesus shifts our understanding: it is not just about seeing the other as someone like myself, but of the ability to make myself like the other. Communication is really about realizing that we are all human beings, children of God. I like seeing this power of communication as 'neighbourliness'.

“Whenever communication is primarily aimed at promoting consumption or manipulating others, we are dealing with a form of violent aggression like that suffered by the man in the parable, who was beaten by robbers and left abandoned on the road. The Levite and the priest do not regard him as a neighbour, but as a stranger to be kept at a distance. In those days, it was rules of ritual purity which conditioned their response. Nowadays there is a danger that certain media so condition our responses that we fail to see our real neighbour.

“It is not enough to be passers-by on the digital highways, simply 'connected'; connections need to grow into true encounters. We cannot live apart, closed in on ourselves. We need to love and to be loved. We need tenderness. Media strategies do not ensure beauty, goodness and truth in communication. The world of media also has to be concerned with humanity, it too is called to show tenderness. he digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people. The impartiality of media is merely an appearance; only those who go out of themselves in their communication can become a true point of reference for others. Personal engagement is the basis of the trustworthiness of a communicator. Christian witness, thanks to the internet, can thereby reach the peripheries of human existence.

“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' (Acts 1:8). Keeping the doors of our churches open also means keeping them open in the digital environment so that people, whatever their situation in life, can enter, and so that the Gospel can go out to reach everyone. We are called to show that the Church is the home of all. Are we capable of communicating the image of such a Church? Communication is a means of expressing the missionary vocation of the entire Church; today the social networks are one way to experience this call to discover the beauty of faith, the beauty of encountering Christ. In the area of communications too, we need a Church capable of bringing warmth and of stirring hearts.

“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' (BENEDICT XVI, Message for the 47th World Communications Day, 2013). We need but recall the story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. We have to be able to dialogue with the men and women of today, to understand their expectations, doubts and hopes, and to bring them the Gospel, Jesus Christ himself, God incarnate, who died and rose to free us from sin and death. We are challenged to be people of depth, attentive to what is happening around us and spiritually alert. To dialogue means to believe that the 'other' has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective. Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute.

“May the image of the Good Samaritan who tended to the wounds of the injured man by pouring oil and wine over them be our inspiration. 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. She needs to be a Church at the side of others, capable of accompanying everyone along the way. The revolution taking place in communications media and in information technologies represents a great and thrilling challenge; may we respond to that challenge with fresh energy and imagination as we seek to share with others the beauty of God.”


Vatican City, 23 January 2014 (VIS) – Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, head of the Holy See delegation, spoke yesterday at the international conference on Syria taking place in Montreux, Switzerland. The prelate remarked that “confronted with the indescribable suffering of the Syrian people, a sense of solidarity and common responsibility prompts us to engage in a dialogue which is based on honesty, mutual trust, and concrete steps” and stressed that dialogue is the only way forward.

“There is no military solution to the Syrian crisis”, he said. “The Holy See is convinced that violence leads nowhere but to death, destruction and no future. … The Holy See renews its urgent appeal to all the parties concerned for the full and absolute respect for humanitarian law”.

He presented various proposals, emphasising that “an immediate cease-fire without preconditions and the end to violence of all kinds should become a priority and the urgent goal of these negotiations”, to which he added that “all weapons should be laid down and specific steps should be taken to stop the flow of arms and arms funding that feed the escalation of violence and destruction, to leave room for the instruments of peace”.

Likewise, he commented that the cessation of hostilities should be accompanied by “increased humanitarian assistance and the immediate start of reconstruction”, which should “start together with negotiations and should be sustained by the generous solidarity of the international community. In this process, young people should be given a preferential consideration so that through their employment and work they may become protagonists for a peaceful and creative future for their country”.

“Community rebuilding calls for dialogue and reconciliation sustained by a spiritual dimension. The Holy See strongly encourages all religious faiths and communities in Syria to reach a deeper mutual knowledge, a better understanding and a restoration of trust”.

He continued, “It is important that regional and international powers favour the ongoing dialogue and that regional problems be addressed. Peace in Syria could become a catalyst of peace in other parts of the region, and a model of that peace that is so urgently needed”.

“Beyond the tragedies of the current crisis, new opportunities and original solutions for Syria and its neighbours can come about. … [so that] no-one is forced to leave his country because of intolerance and the inability to accept differences. In fact, the equality assured by common citizenship can allow the individual to express for himself and in community with others the fundamental values all persons hold indispensable to sustain their inner identity”.

The archbishop concluded by emphasising that since the Syrian crisis began, the Holy See has been following its developments with deep concern and has constantly advocated that all parties involved commit themselves to the prevention of violence and to the provision of humanitarian assistance to all victims.

The Holy See observer also referred to the many occasions on which the Pope has raised his voice “to remind people of the futility of violence, inviting a negotiated resolution of problems, calling for a just and equitable participation of everyone in the life of society”, and highlighted the convocation by the Holy Father of a Day of Prayer and Fasting for peace in Syria and the Middle East, which received an overwhelmingly positive response worldwide. He concluded by remarking that the culture of encounter and the culture of dialogue are “the only way to peace”.


Vatican City, 23 January 2014 (VIS) – This morning, the Holy Father received in separate audiences:

- Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general emeritus of His Holiness for the diocese of Rome.

- Archbishop Celestino Migliore, apostolic nuncio in Poland.

- Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendia, apostolic nuncio in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

- Archbishop Hector Ruben Aguer of La Plata, Argentina.

- Bishop Eduardo Maria Taussig of San Rafael, Argentina.

This afternoon, he is scheduled to receive:

- Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops.

- Bishop Adolfo Armando Uriona of Anatuya, Argentina.

Yesterday the Holy Father received in audience Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals.


Vatican City, 23 January 2014 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father appointed the following as prelate auditors of the Roman Rota Tribunal: Msgr. Antonio Bartolacci, moderator of the Chancery of the same Tribunal, and Fr. Manuel Saturino da Costa Gomes, S.C.I., lecturer in Canon Law at the faculty of theology and director of the Higher Institute of Canon Law of the Universidade Catolica Portuguesa, and judge of the Patriarchal Tribunal of Lisbon.
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