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World Day of Communications World Day of Communications  (ANSA) Editorial

Finding the meaning of history and its narrative

An editorial by the Prefect of the Dicastery for Communications on Pope Francis’ Message for the 54th World Day of Communications.

Paolo Ruffini

“Amid the cacophony of voices and messages that surround us, we need a human story that can speak of ourselves and of the beauty all around us.”

“Even when we tell of evil, we can learn to leave room for redemption; in the midst of evil, we can also recognize the working of goodness and give it space.”

With these two sentences, placed respectively at the beginning and end of his Message for the 54th World Day of Communications, Pope Francis brings us back to the essence of a theme that we have been tiptoeing around for a long time.

It is like being in a vortex. We risk losing our direction, our compass, our North Star. The era of communication, paradoxically, risks becoming one of incommunicability. Despite the big data, we do not have the necessary wisdom to read and recount the meaning of every story, and with it, the meaning of history.

The verb ‘to narrate’ comes from the Latin gnarus, to experience. But without the ability to unify experience, there is neither wisdom nor knowledge. Everything is reduced to a line on a meaningless list.

This is what narrating does.

Only through narration are we able to reveal that which is not immediately visible to the eye, that which is hidden, which requires time and knowledge in order to be revealed.

With his message, the Pope surely speaks to communicators and he certainly speaks to journalists. But not only. He speaks to everyone in general, because we all communicate. We are all responsible for the world that we depict through our narration.

Our narratives are infinite. They are written, spoken, filmed. They are woven with words, images and music. They are the memory of our past and the vision of our future.

Our stories are the life we hand down.

The Pope asks everyone, What is the story we tell ourselves? How much have we truly lived it, contemplated it, reflected on it and understood it, before telling it? Is it a true story? A dynamic one? Or, is it one that is untrue? Is it immobile? Does this story depict humanity, and the mystery that encloses it, or is it a story that erases our humanity? Is it a story of good or a story of evil? Is it open to hope, or is it one of discouragement? Is it a story that welcomes evil or that always seeks, in every situation, the spark of good capable of redeeming it?

Each story is understood by its ending. How do our stories end? What space do we leave for the mystery of God, to the possibility of redemption?

Where is the wisdom of the story? In his Laudato sí, Pope Francis writes:

The great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload … True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution.

Through communication, we have the power to cause both understanding and misunderstanding; to build and to destroy a responsible awareness; and to nourish or starve our future identities.

From these questions, through which we accept our responsibilities, we can resume our journey. We can take it up again, as believers, aware of an event that has changed history, illuminating it with the mystery of God - who becomes man precisely to redeem it. The Three Kings are aware of the wisdom that we risk losing in the turmoil of our lives. Faced with this mystery of God, they were warned, in a dream, that in order to return home they must chose a different path to the one they had followed in the past. This, so as to protect both the history that had been revealed to them and the Child God who embodied it.

In order for us to find the place that preserves both the sense of history and the story, as the Three Kings did, we must choose a different path to the one that has brought us to where we are now. To start again we need another path, another history, another way of seeing, telling the story, remembering, of building - narrating - the future.

24 January 2020, 17:05