· Vatican City ·

The Holy Father’s impromptu address to Dicastery for Communication

Communication must be inclusive and truthful

 Communication must be inclusive and truthful  ING-046
18 November 2022

After consigning his prepared speech (see page 8) to members of the Dicastery for Communication whom he received in audience on Saturday morning, 12 November, the Holy Father delivered an impromptu address. He encouraged them to take risks, communicate with Christian and human values, and listen to feedback. The following is a translation of his words.

Dear Brothers and dear Sisters,
Good morning and welcome!

I thank Dr Ruffini for his kind words, and I greet all of you who are participating in the Plenary Assembly of the Dicastery for Communication, which has as its theme “Synod and communication: a journey to develop”. And this is the message, eight pages… If I begin to read them, by the time I reach the fourth one, you will have forgotten what I said earlier! And I think that it’s better for you that you take this message with you. Dr Ruffini will make a copy available to each of you. And so I can tell you something more spontaneous and uncensored, which is more fun!”

When we talk about communication we are talking about a “back and fourth”. There is no one-way communication. It comes and goes. It comes and goes back. And in this, there is also growth. Only parrots communicate one way, without a return, because they always say the same thing and it doesn’t matter what the echo is that comes from the other side. A true communicator must be attentive to the feedback, to what comes, to the reaction elicited by what I say. Because communication is a human connection. What is important is not what I say, but what I say to what the other tells me, to what I listen to. This is why the philosophy of the loudspeaker is not necessary. Rather, it is, let’s say, the philosophy “of the telephone”: one listens, one replies.

Dialogue: there can be no communication without dialogue and without movement, without moving. And this always brings risks. Because we have this rule of inertia, of inertia that pushes you, always perched on the same thing, saying things, giving the news and then being silent. No. You have to listen to how that was received and what reaction it elicits. And this is why there are some of you who touch me a great deal. For example, the enthusiasm of Monda [Director of L’Osservatore Romano]. Monda is not a journalist; he is a poet, a creator, because he communicates through poetry. With creativity he listens to what people say… And then L’Osservatore — yes L’Osservatore is a problem, we all know this — and instead of closing down L’Osservatore, he starts another one, L’Osservatore di Strada, and off you go! This is communicating, always seeking frontiers, other ones, other ones… Communicative restlessness. And this involves a certain disarray. The communicator is unable to keep everything in order. There is always some disorder because that is what we humans are like. And I see things like that among you.

For example — this is something else but I want to say it — I made two films with Fabio Marchese Ragona, and I saw in that communication the ability to create things that have reached a large audience because there was this seeking to go towards the other.

And actually, when I read something from you, for example an article by Gisotti: if you read Gisotti, he does not only make a reflection, no. He makes his reflection and creates inner tensions. To mention only some communicators… This is communicating; it is risking, it is creating, it is going beyond. A communicator who wants to have everything in order has chosen the wrong profession. Be an archivist, you will do it better! The communicator must always take risks, must always be on the road, always engaging with life.

This is to communicate. And I thank the Prefect [Dr Paolo Ruffini] — poor thing — he has the curse of being the first lay Prefect in the Curia! I thank him because he allows this, he allows growth. “Do I still have to grow more”? You know that better than me, but you permit growth. I thank you for this. This is what I see in your Dicastery. Communication in motion, creative.

Then communication of values. We cannot descend to communication without values. We have to communicate with our values. This does not mean that we have to pray a novena to a saint every day. Christian values, values that are behind, values that teach about going forward. The person who is in it for human values. For example, I see James Martin here. “Oh yes, this one works…” Yes, but he wrote a book called “Learning to Pray”. Read it because it teaches you to pray. A man who has values, a communicator who also knows how to teach you the way to communicate with God. This is being a communicator. To go, to walk, to risk, with values, convinced that I am giving my life with my values, Christian values and human values. I am suspicious of aseptic communicators, those who are pure technique. Yes, but technique on its own is not necessary. Technique helps you if there is a heart behind it, if there is a mind, if there is a man, a woman, who gives of him or her own self. Be attentive not to slip only on technique because this leads you to an aseptic communication, devoid of values and that can then fall prey to marketing or the ideologies of the moment.

And then a third thing I find with your Dicastery, Mr Prefect — and I thank you for this — is humanism. You have provided a human climate, and this must be preserved. A human communication, with human warmth, and not purely technical. Technique is necessary for development, but if there is the human. When you [addresses Sr Veronica Donatello] go to the deaf-mute and do this [sign language] — you know all the technique — but behind that communication is your human heart, of a woman, of a mother, of a sister. This is very important, communicating with the heart and with the human, with values, and moving forward.

These are the things I wanted to tell you, the things about you that most strike me. Let us hope that Monda does not make a third L’Osservatore Romano, because he is so enthusiastic that he will never stop! Thank you, thank you very much for everything, really, thank you! I am happy, and continue on, take risks, take risks, do not be afraid! Take risks, so as to encounter the other in communication.

And now let us ask the Lord to bless us all, because we are all in need of God’s blessing, all of us.