By Andrea Tornielli
"Communicating through witnessing, communicating by involving oneself in communication, communicating with nouns, naming things, communicating like martyrs, that is, as witnesses of Christ, as martyrs. Learning the language of the martyrs, which is the language of the Apostles".
It was Pope Francis’ first opportunity to meet and greet personally all the employees (journalists, technicians, administrative staff) of the new Dicastery for Communications, the Vatican Department that has brought together nine former autonomous communications entities of the Holy See. The Pope handed over the text of his prepared speech and then spoke off the cuff, inviting us communicators to be witnesses, to restore value to nouns rather than adjectives and adverbs, and above all to carry out our daily task following the example of the martyrs.
That invitation of the Pope is one that touches the heart of our work. He did not give "technical" advice; he did not tell us if we need to provide our listeners, readers and viewers with more news coverage, or if we need to do more or fewer video news, radio interviews or written articles. Instead, he reminded us of the essential: communication for the media of the Holy See, communication for a Christian, means witness. In order to give witness we need, first of all, to live, to get involved, to let ourselves be touched deeply by the realities we encounter and recount. We need to let ourselves be wounded by the dramatic stories lived by other people, and then know how to communicate the beauty, truth, and hope of those stories.
Pope Francis' words provide concrete indications, especially on the eve of an important ecclesial event like the Synod on the Amazon. They represent a compass to navigate the crowded sea of the media, and the jungle of social networks. These are characterized by daily examples of evangelical counter-witness on the part of those who reduce faith to politics, or who represent the life of the Church, the Body of Christ, as a gang war. Those who reduce the magisterium to slogans, or use a language of division, or who mock their brothers and sisters in the faith, their pastors, and the Successor of Peter.
Having before our eyes the example of the martyrs, as the Pope told us, is the style of evangelical witness. "It is our martyrs”, he explained, “who give life to the Church: not our artists, our great preachers, our custodians of ‘true and integral doctrine’". The witness of the martyrs is the witness of those who gave their lives for the Gospel, who have always made their love for the enemy prevail, who have followed in the footsteps of the One who chose to sacrifice Himself for the salvation of all. This is something a Christian can never forget when communicating, when trying to witness to communion, not division; when communicating the love that unites, not the hatred that divides; the nature of the Church, not its reduction to a structure guided by a purely human, political, divisive logic.
Is this attitude one that could often appear to go against the flow with respect to mainstream media? Yes it is. But it is the task that the Successor of Peter entrusts to us. He asks us not to pursue a success linked to “clicks” and "likes", but to offer instead a witness that creates bonds and relationships through our daily work as communicators. Above all, he invites us to offer those who hear us, see us, or read us – a glimpse of beauty, truth and hope.