Saturday, April 20 2024

“Pope Francis urged families to put their gadgets aside and re-engage in
conversation.” In this way, CBS News, one of the four largest
television networks in the United States, summarized the Message of Pope
Francis on the World Day of Communications. Traditionally this message is
repeated every year on January 24, in honor of the feast day of St. Francis
de Sales, patron of journalists. Since it is not a great novelty, it is no
surprise to find the first mention of this message and its content on the
third page of Google’s search results.

In order of their appearance on Google, the second mention from commercial
news sites comes from Daily News in New York, stating: “Pope
Francis tells the faithful to go easy with their cell phones and shun
social media in favor of face time. Today’s great challenge, he says, is to
learn how to talk to each other, ‘not simply how to generate and consume
information.” This search result appears on the fifth page of Google.

On the other hand, the news was certainly given a great deal of space and
visibility in Catholic media outlets, out of deference to the Pope’s
authority, which is not only moral. Their analyses can be summarized by
this phrase: “For Pope Francis, the family is, and should be, a school of
communication.”

There is no conflict between the two ways of reporting news, in as much as
they are different approaches to reading the same message. The target
audience is different, and so too, their interests. Consequently, the way
to attract their readers’ attention is also different. Fortunately, the
Pope’s message was not scandalous or innovative in such a way that it could
raise other interpretations, which would have improved its position on
Google’s online search of the secular media. That is to say, it would have
gained greater attention by the media in general.

Going beyond the technicalities of news coverage and moving to substance,
my suspicion is that this message belongs entirely to the Pope.
Incidentally, we shouldn’t be scandalized by the fact that a Pontiff
doesn’t write everything that he reads. There is not a head of state in the
world capable of personally writing all his speeches. Naturally they read
them, share them, and approve them. Sometimes however, you see the hand of
the speaker more than that of the ghost-writer.

Regardless of the different lenses through which the news can be read, Pope
Francis’ message for the World Day of Communication without a doubt exudes
great love for the family—the family as a concrete reality, not as an
“abstract concept” to use in cultural battles. A very human sensitivity
towards communications emerges: honest, unfiltered, with both errors and
corrections, and requests for forgiveness when someone is hurt by words or
when mistakes are made. In other words, the type of communication that is
mediated by our own “bodies” is reflected, precisely like the relationship
between a mother and a child in her womb. It is also the relationship of
another kind of womb, the family.

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