Pope Francis has called on everyone worldwide to refrain from telling falsehood but speak with “open heart and arms” and promote a language of peace. “We should not be afraid of proclaiming the truth, even if it is at times uncomfortable. “Jesus warns us that every tree is known by its fruit: “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks”. This is why, in order to communicate truth with charity, it is necessary to purify one’s heart. Only by listening and speaking with a pure heart can we see beyond appearances and overcome the vague din which, also in the field of information, does not help us discern in the complicated world in which we live.” The Pontiff made this assertion in his message for the 57th World Day of Social Communications released at the Vatican on the feast Day of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists. According to the Holy Father, the call to speak with the heart radically challenges the times in which we are living, which are so inclined towards indifference and indignation, at times even on the basis of disinformation which falsifies and exploits the truth. His Holiness chose a four-worded subject, “Speaking with the Heart” as the theme for the 57th World Communications Day, marked globally on Sunday, May 21.
Backed by Ephesians 4: 15, “The Truth in Love”, Pope Francis enjoined the world to “speak with the heart.” Subsequent to his messages in the past years that dwelt on “to go and see” and “to listen” as conditions for good communications, Pope Francis in his new message for the 2023 edition of the World Communications Day, urged the world of communication to focus on “speaking with the heart.” The Pope explained, “It is the heart that spurred us to go, to see and to listen, and it is the heart that moves us towards an open and welcoming way of communicating. Once we have practised listening, which demands waiting and patience, as well as foregoing the assertion of our point of view in a prejudicial way, we can enter into the dynamics of dialogue and sharing, which is precisely that of communicating in a cordial way. “After listening to the other with a pure heart, we will also be able to speak, following the truth in love. We should not be afraid of proclaiming the truth, even if it is at times uncomfortable, but of doing so without charity, without heart.” He advocated in strong terms that communicating should be done “in a cordial manner,” stressing that it should be rooted in love for the other and caring about and protecting the other’s freedom. The world today is marked by polarisation and division, and even the Church is not immune, he noted. “In a historical period marked by polarisations and contrasts – to which unfortunately, not even the ecclesial community is immune – the commitment to communicating “with open heart and arms” does not pertain exclusively to those in the field of communications; it is everyone’s responsibility.
“We are all called to seek and to speak the truth and to do so with charity. We Christians in particular are continually urged to keep our tongue from evil, because as Scripture teaches us, with the same tongue, we can bless the Lord and curse men and women who were made in the likeness of God. No evil word should come from our mouths, but rather “only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear.” “In the Church, too, there is a great need to listen to, and to hear one another,” he said. When people listen attentively and openly without prejudice, it “gives rise to speaking according to God’s style, nurtured by closeness, compassion and tenderness.” There is a “pressing need in the Church for communication that kindles hearts, that is balm on wounds and that shines light on the journey of our brothers and sisters” as well as that that lets itself be guided by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Pontiff said. The Church, he wrote, needs communication that; is both gentle and prophetic; finds new ways to proclaim the Gospel today; puts the faithful’s relationship with God, with others, especially the neediest, at the centre; lights “the fire of faith, rather than preserve the ashes of a self-referential identity”; is based on “humility in listening and ‘parrhesia’ (boldness) in speaking”; and never separates truth from charity. The Pope remarked that the wider world needs people who speak from that heart and promote “a language” or culture of peace, especially where there is war, as well as make way for “dialogue and reconciliation in places where hatred and enmity rage.” “True peace can only be built in mutual trust,” which needs “bold and creative” communicators who are willing “to take risks to find common ground on which to meet” and “help create the conditions to resolve controversies between peoples,” Pope Francis said in his message. Because words can often turn into “warlike actions of heinous violence,” he said, “All belligerent rhetoric must be rejected, as well as every form of propaganda that manipulates the truth, disfiguring it for ideological ends.” St. Francis de Sales is a model of “speaking with the heart” he noted.
“One of the brightest and still fascinating examples of “speaking with the heart” is offered by Saint Francis de Sales, a Doctor of the Church, whom I wrote about in the Apostolic Letter, Totum Amoris Est, 400 years after his death. In addition to this important anniversary, I would like to mention another anniversary that takes place in 2023: The centenary of his proclamation as patron of Catholic journalists by Pius XI with the Encyclical, Rerum Omnium Perturbationem. “A brilliant intellectual, fruitful writer and profound theologian, Francis de Sales was Bishop of Geneva at the beginning of the XVII century during difficult years, marked by heated disputes with Calvinists. His meek attitude, humanity and willingness to dialogue patiently with everyone, especially with those who disagreed with him, made him an extraordinary witness of God’s merciful love. “One could attest to this fact about him: “A pleasant voice multiplies friends, and a gracious tongue multiplies courtesies”. “After all, one of his most famous statements, “heart speaks to heart”, inspired generations of faithful, among them Saint John Henry Newman, who chose it as his motto, Cor ad cor loquitur. One of his convictions was, “In order to speak well, it is enough to love well”. It shows that for him, communication should never be reduced to something artificial, to a marketing strategy, as we might say nowadays, but is rather a reflection of the soul, the visible surface of a nucleus of love that is invisible to the eye. For Saint Francis de Sales, precisely “in the heart and through the heart, there comes about a subtle, intense and unifying process in which we come to know God”. “By “loving well”, Saint Francis succeeded in communicating with Martin, the deaf-mute, becoming his friend.
This is why he is also known as the protector of people with impairments in communicating. St. Francis de Sales makes bold an assertion that “we are what we communicate,” His Holiness said. St. Paul VI attested that the Saint’s writings are “highly enjoyable, instructive and moving,” which are precisely the things every article, report, television or radio programme and social media post should include, Pope Francis recalled. “May people who work in communications feel inspired by this saint of tenderness, seeking and telling the truth with courage and freedom and rejecting the temptation to use sensational and combative expressions,” he said. The Pope went on to highlight, “Communicating in a cordial manner means that those who read or listen to us are led to welcome our participation in the joys, fears, hopes and suffering of the women and men of our time. Those who speak in this way love the other because they care and protect their freedom without violating it. “There is a deep emphasis on using the gift of communication as a ‘bridge’ and not as a wall, where kindness is not only a question of ‘etiquette’ but a ‘genuine antidote to cruelty’. We need to foster peace and understanding. Acknowledging that we are ‘living in a dark hour in which humanity fears an escalation of war,’ he wrote, “Today more than ever, speaking with the heart is essential to foster a culture of peace in places where there is war; to open paths that allow for dialogue and reconciliation in places where hatred and enmity rage.” In the dramatic context of the global conflict we are experiencing, it is urgent to maintain a form of communication that is not hostile. It is necessary to overcome the tendency to “discredit and insult opponents from the outset rather than to open a respectful dialogue,” the Bishop of Rome further stated. The Holy Pontiff urged the media and other communications’ professionals to exercise more kindness and share the truth with charity. “Kindness is not only a question of ‘etiquette’ but a genuine antidote to cruelty, which unfortunately, can poison hearts and make relationships toxic,” the Pope wrote in his message for 2023 World Communications Day. Just as kindness is needed in social relationships, “we need it in the field of media, so that communication does not foment acrimony that exasperates, creates rage and leads to clashes, but helps people peacefully reflect and interpret with a critical yet always respectful spirit, the reality in which they live,” he added.