Good communicators are called to be Good Samaritans to suffering humanity

Today, when even people have become victims of our throw-away culture, the communications industry is called to be the ‘Good Samaritan’ to this suffering humanity. This was part of the message delivered yesterday by Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, Director of the Vatican’s Sala Stampa and of Radio Vaticana, during a public conference in Valletta organised by Public Broadcasting Services Ltd.

Fr Lombardi, explained how from the opening words of sacred scripture, ‘God said’, right till the coming of Jesus Christ as God’s word incarnate, and the mission of the apostles to spread the good news, our faith history and then the Church’s mission has centred around the communication of God’s love for mankind. It is therefore natural for the Church to want to immerse herself into this communications culture, with so many tools at its disposal to announce the Word of God. They are gifts.

He spoke of the contrast between the story of Babel, where blinding ambition and failed communication leads to division and dispersion, and Pentecost, where enlightened communication with diverse peoples leads to communion and the formation of a new community.

It is through access to correct information that a person can learn, form opinions and develop into a mature person. This access is a fundamental human right, and the opportunity to communicate leads to the possibility of dialogue, solidarity and growth as a community.

The Church, through its media, has played a significant role in recent history, particularly through its radio broadcasts at times of war, its messages of solidarity, and its humanitarian role, to mention a concrete example, in reuniting separated families who fled Kosovo in a time of crisis. The transmission over the airwaves of significant events gave people the possibility to feel involved, and to participate from afar, even if it was simply to receive a blessing from the Pope.

Communication unites, spanning space and time, creating a live communion. It creates community in the Church and among humanity, even with non-believers. The collaboration with so many people from so many countries to enable the Vatican’s communications to reach millions across the globe is a blessing.

So many tools of communication have been developed that now it has become a culture of communication in its own right. And the Church always look for the places where people gather, to be there among them, to contribute to this world in formation.

‘Man does not live on tweets alone,’ Fr Lombardi joked. But yes, in this digital age, the Church does look to be present in the social media, always bearing in mind the wider scope for its online activity. The wide horizon presented to us is a source of optimism. During the Pope’s recent call to prayer for Syria, the creation of a ‘tweeting’ community added another dimension, involving thousands who may never have otherwise been there. 

However, despite all the media attention, the Pope shies away from being made out to be a ‘superstar’ - all he wants to do is announce the joy of the Gospel and God’s desire to reach out to mankind. Pope Francis simply wants to be the messenger.

Ultimately, Fr Lombardi said, the communications of the Vatican and Church should have three characteristics:

  1. Positivity. This should be a Church of ‘yes’ not of ‘no’, a welcoming Church which looks for the good of individuals and of society. There has been a change of atmosphere with the new papacy with emphasis being placed on the message of love, welcome and mercy, of God’s immense love for his creation.
  2. Fraternity. The Church must no longer use an approach of authority but rather an approach of fraternity, where it is on a pilgrimage in communion with others and not superior to them.
  3. Witnessing. The Church is called to be convincing in her words and to be authentic in every aspect.

Fr Lombardi was thrilled to point out that contrary to popular impressions, people who work in mass media are actually very happy when they have the opportunity to be part of the transmission of positive stories and to be able to contribute to the spread of goodness.

Finally, Fr Lombardi spoke of the Pope’s call, on the occasion of World Communications Day, for good communicators to be like Good Samaritans, good neighbours seeking out those who suffer, give a voice to the marginalised, offer support to those in need who are met along the road. It is all about encounters.

The conference, ‘The art of communication at the service of the Church’s misson’, was organised on the occasion of Fr Lombardi’s visit to Malta to sign a joint collaboration agreement between PBS, Vatican Radio and Vatican TV.

Fr Lombardi, himself a Jesuit, was ordained priest in 1972. In 1973 up to 1977 he joined the College of Writers for the prestigious Jesuit publication  »Civilta’ Cattolica »  of which he was Deputy Editor up to 1984. Fr Lombardi was elected Provincial Superior of the Italian Province of the « Compagnia di Gesu’ « in 1984 up to 1990. He acted as Director of Programmes of the Vatican Radio from 1991 to 2005 and as Director General of the Vatican Television Centre (Centro Televisivo Vaticano) from 2001 to 2012.

From the 5th November 2005 Fr Lombardi is the Director General of the Vatican Radio and from the 11th July 2006 he is the Director of the Press Centre (Sala Stampa) of the Holy see. 

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