Pope Francis: Communicate by encountering people as they are
23 January 2021
In his message for the 55th World Communications Day, Pope Francis says Jesus’ invitation to “Come and see” is the way by which the Christian faith is communicated.
“The call to ‘come and see’… is the method for every authentic human communication,” says Pope Francis in his Message for the the 55th World Communications Day. The Vatican released the text of the Pope’s Message on Saturday, the eve of the feast of St Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists.
"This year," says Pope Francis, "I would like to devote this Message to the invitation to 'come and see', which can serve as an inspiration for all communication that strives to be clear and honest, in the press, on the internet, in the Church’s daily preaching and in political or social communication." This theme recalls the Gospel account of the first disciples’ initial encounters with Jesus, who invited them to “Come and see,” to enter into relationship with Him. Later, one of those disciples, St Philip, speaking to his friend Nathaniel, invited him to “Come and see” the Messiah whom he had found.
“That is how Christian faith begins, and how it is communicated: as direct knowledge, born of experience, and not of hearsay. says Pope Francis. He explains that seeing something for oneself is the best way of getting at the truth of things, and “the most honest test of every message, because, in order to know, we need to encounter, to let the person in front of me speak, to let his or her testimony reach me.”
Hitting the streets
Pope Francis is sharply critical of a tendency to reduce news to pre-packaged, self-referential soundbites, reflecting only the concerns and viewpoints of the “powers that be.”
This leads to a flow of information “created in newsrooms,” which does not accurately reflect reality on the ground. Rather, he says, we must instead “hit the streets,” in order to see things we otherwise would not know, share knowledge that would not otherwise circulate, and have encounters that would otherwise not take place.
The courage of journalists
Journalists, in particular, says Pope Francis, must be willing to go where no one goes, must have a desire to see things for themselves – a “curiosity, an openness, a passion.” He praised the courage of journalists who have faced grave risks to share the stories of those who are oppressed, of the sufferings of the poor and of creation, of forgotten wars. “It would be a loss not only for news reporting, but for society and for democracy as a whole, were those voices to fade away,” he says. “Our entire human family would be impoverished.”
Pope Francis notes that many situations today call for someone to “come and see” things as they truly are. Too often, he says, we risk seeing things only through the eyes of the richer part of the world. This can lead to a divergence between the news we receive and what is really happening.
Opportunity and risks of the internet