By Paul Samasumo – Vatican City
In assuring the communicators, Paolo Ruffini quoted a KiSwahili phrase, “Tuko pamoja,” which means, “We are together.”
Personal closeness to Africa
Dr Ruffini narrated his personal affinity and closeness with Africa and its people. He spoke of how, many years ago, he was touched by Pope Saint Paul VI’s document, “Africae Terrarum” of 29 October 1967, no. 1.
In “Africae Terrarum,” Pope Saint Paul VI outlines his Vision for the Church’ social mission in Africa.
“I feel myself strongly linked with Africa and African people since when I was a child. Since when Pope Saint Paul VI, wrote, quoting (the Apostle) Saint Paul that “the voice of the African people, similar to that heard in the dream by Saint Paul while he was in Troade (Acts 16: 9), continues to resound in our souls: Come, help us, it is time,” recounted the Communication Prefect.
Communication can build or foment misunderstandings
Dr Ruffini was speaking from the Vatican, when he officially opened a Webinar for Catholic Communicators of Africa gathered in a virtual conference, to commemorate 70 years of Vatican Radio broadcasts in the English language to Africa.
The theme of the Webinar jointly organised by the English Africa Service of Vatican Radio and SIGNIS Africa was: “Story-telling as a tool to manage racial and social tribulations in Africa.”
Dr Ruffini reminded the online forum that, in many aspects, communication was double-edged: It could either be a means to building a better world or a mechanism for inciting misunderstandings, resentments and even enmity.
A Vatican News Agency in the offing
The Prefect of the Dicastery further announced plans for the establishment of a Vatican News Agency. He called for the eventual participation, in this effort, by all Catholic African media practitioners.
Other speakers in the event included Nigerian Bishop Emmanuel Badejo; well-known Jesuit priest, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ; Mother Mary Claude Oguh of Nigeria; Ms Sheila Pires of South Africa and Fr. Prof. Walter Ihejirika. The latter is also the SIGNIS Africa President.
Vatican News to publish the full speeches of the Webinar
Vatican News will, in the coming days, release the complete presentations of the various speakers under the African section of this website.
The recorded YouTube of Webinar can be found at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmiH9mMU3vg
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Africae Terrarum.
Below is the full speech of Dr Paulo Ruffini at the Webinar on Friday:
Message of the Prefect of the Dicastery for Communications at the Webinar of Africa’s Catholic Communicators on the occasion commemorating 70 years of Vatican Radio’s English language broadcasts to Africa. (1950 – 2020)
Your Excellency, Bishop Emmanuel Badejo, of Oyo Diocese, Nigeria and President of the Pan-African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS);
Your Excellences, the Bishops participating in this event;
Most Dear Fr. Federico Lombardi,
Very Rev. Mother Mary Claude Oguh, Superior General, Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and President of the Nigerian Conference of Women Religious.
Dear speakers, Staff of the English Africa Service, SIGNIS Africa executive, Catholic Communicators – those in Africa and elsewhere, Clergy, Religious men and women and the Lay Faithful.
I know that time is of great essence in every webinar. However, allow me to greet all of you and say how very pleased I am to be part of this event. I am particularly delighted to see Your Excellences, the Bishops-in-charge of Social Communication Commissions in Africa.
We all know how important are the means of communication to draw out the best from each person.
Communication may be the mean to build a better world; or may continue fomenting misunderstandings, resentments, enmity.
The days of tribulation that we are experiencing have given communication even a greater role: both for today, to tackle the health crisis; and for tomorrow, to give a new shape to the future.
The importance of what you do as Church communicators is so great that it cannot be over-emphasised.
The Holy Father, Pope Francis, addressing employees of the Dicastery for Communication on 23 September 2019 told us that, “For the Church, communication is a mission. No investment is too great for spreading the Word of God. At the same time, every talent must be well spent, made to bear fruit. The credibility of what we say is also measured by this. Moreover, to remain faithful to the gift received, one must have the courage to change, never to feel that one has ‘arrived’ nor to be discouraged.”
I am aware of some of the many challenges that you face as Church Communicators in Africa. I urge you to heed the Holy Father’s words: Do not be discouraged. We are on the same boat.
We are, as Pope Francis said, in the extraordinary moment of prayer of march 27, “fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. …. we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this”.
Why do we have to be afraid? Don’t we have faith? Don’t we feel safe in God's hands?
One of those challenges you face in the discharge of your duties is getting access to timely, reliable, and dependable news about the Church. This is a problem in a world full of fake news. I am glad to say that the Dicastery for Communication is working towards the creation of a Vatican News Agency that will become a reliable source for news, especially Church news. This agency will be your platform for Church news. You will find also on this platform alternative news stories, especially those which the secular news agencies may consider unimportant. For this News Agency to succeed, we will need your collaboration in feeding it with news stories from Africa.
I am glad that this webinar is based mainly on the theme of Pope Francis’ Message for the World Communications Day. The Holy Father spoke about the importance of telling stories. There are thousands of stories of good needing to be told.
Dear communicators, tell the story of Africa! Tell about the challenges of Africa but tell also about the successes and the people who are making a difference in their communities. Let your stories build bridges and lead to creating opportunities for dialogue where there are conflicts. The Church communicator is not just a witness of what he or she writes and says but mainly of what he or she does in society.
Sharing is the key word.
We together, while apart – we, members one of another – can be the greatest network of sharing stories and actions, faith and works, truth and truth-based relationships.
As Pope Francis said last year to the youths in Antananaarivo, Madagascar: No one can say: “I don’t need you”, or “You are not part of this loving plan that was the Father’s dream when he created us”.
What makes us strong is being a network. What weakens us is not being a network enough. We can only bear witness by being members one of another.
I feel myself strongly linked with Africa and african people since when I was a child . Since when Pope Saint Paul VI, wrote, quoting saint Paul’s that “the voice of the African people, similar to that heard in the dream by Saint Paul while he was in Troade (Acts 16,9), continues to resound in our souls: Come, help us, it is time!” (Africae Terrarum, 29 October, 1967, n1).
We must hear your voice. We must bring to you the voice of the Pope.
It is always the time to help one another.
At the heart of the media reform that Pope Francis is bringing to the communication structures of the Vatican is the need for synergy and collaboration. I support and encourage this synergy and collaboration. One such example, is this very webinar of today.
It is up to us to be strongly committed in building a communication based on relationship to combat the virus of division. A communication based on a network that is both global and local. Digital and real. Made to unite, not to divide. To donate, not to sell or buy.
As the world struggles with the coronavirus pandemic and racial challenges, Pope Francis has made it clear that a valuable lesson which the world can learn is the fact of our common and shared humanity. When we bring together our different resources, in a show of common brotherhood and sisterhood, we can defeat any human challenge.
In a time when so many are tempted to build a new tower of Babel, we are called to serve this miracle of unity in diversity.
This is the story of Vatican Radio. This is the commitment of the Dicastery for communication for our long lasting future. We have to use all the languages of our times.
This is what we are trying, we must try, to do we in Rome you in Africa.
We need to help one another to make it works. We need to be linked.
The time has come to do it.
I am confident that this webinar will offer viable pathways to creating a community of mutual sharing and collaboration.
Please consider us at your disposal in this mission.
Even if we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the English program of Vatican Radio let me use, to end my speech, a few letter word in the African language Swahili that tells better than any European language the importance of being one, which expresses in a wonderful way the active and profound sharing that comes to us from being members of one another, and gives us a strength that no one else has: TUKO PAMOJA.
Città del Vaticano, 17.7.2020