The Pope’s message for the 51st World Communications Day was issued on January 24, 2017. Its theme was “Fear not, for I am with you,” and centered on communicating hope and trust in our time.
In our world today, mass media inundates us with all sorts of information. Economic and intellectual progress has resulted in the rapid development of technology in mass media, which has now gone farther than radio, print and television with the powerful addition of internet, providing social communication through twitter, facebook, blogs, etc. Indeed, each day, we are assaulted with images, perceptions and ideas, which sadly tend to put a constant focus on “bad news”, i.e., wars, terrorism, scandals and all sorts of human corruption. The communication industry thinks that good news does not sell and tends to headline the sensational.
Pope Francis, in his message, would like, instead, to encourage everyone to engage in constructive forms of communication that reject prejudice toward others and foster a culture of encounter, helping all of us to view the world around us with realism and trust. He encourages us “to search for an open and creative style of communication that never seeks to glamorize evil but, instead, to concentrate on solutions and to inspire a positive and responsible approach on the part of its recipients.” He asks everyone to offer the people of our time storylines that are at heart “good news.”
Pope Benedict XVI also said that, “The social communications media, in particular, because of their educational potential have a special responsibility for promoting respect for the family, making clear its expectations and rights, and presenting all its beauty.” He added that “the media, taken overall, are not only vehicles for spreading ideas: they can and should also be instruments at the service of a world of greater justice and solidarity… the media can also present and support models of development, which serve to increase rather than reduce the technological divide between rich and poor countries.”
Authentic communication, according to Benedict XVI, demands principled courage and resolve. Those working in media must be determined “not to wilt under so much information … nor to be content with partial or provisional truths.” Media must contribute constructively to the propagation of what is good and true. Accurate reporting of events, full explanation of matters of public concern and fair representation of diverse points of view must always be fostered.
Thus, we must not be dismayed by the profusion of “bad news,” which media generally believes is what sells. “Life,” Pope Francis says, “is not simply a succession of events, but a history, a story waiting to be told through the choice of an interpretative lens that can select and gather the most relevant data.” Media is reminded that for Christians, “that lens can only be the good news, beginning with the Good News par excellence … the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God.”
Suffering (or the “bad news that media harps on) is part of the bigger picture. The Holy Father sees it as an integral part of Jesus’ love for the Father and for all mankind. He says that in Christ, God has shown his solidarity with every human situation. He has told us that we are not alone, for we have a Father who is constantly mindful of His children. “Fear not, for I am with you” are the comforting words of a God who is immersed in the history of his people. “Hope is born, a hope accessible to everyone, at the very crossroads where life meets the bitterness of failure.” Thus, every new tragedy, Francis emphasizes, that occurs in the world’s history can also become the setting for good news, inasmuch as love can find a way to draw near and to raise up sympathetic hearts, resolute faces and hands ready to build anew.”
We, who are the recipients of the “news” that media imparts, can and should have solidarity with them, rising up from dismay, discouragement, and even disgust, to an environment that builds hope and trust, taking to heart this divine promise, “I am with you,” especially in our time.