Bishops welcome Pope Benedict’s message for World Communications Day 2012

24 Jan 2012

Bishops welcome Pope Benedict’s message for World Communications Day 2012 – “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelisation”

Bishop John McAreavey and Bishop Denis Brennan of the Irish Bishops’ Council for Communications today welcomed the 2012 message of Pope Benedict XVI for the 46th World Day of Social Communications.  The theme for this year’s communications message is: “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelisation”.

Commenting on the newly released communications message  Bishop McAreavey said: “For Catholics the human person is at the core of all our communications each day.  The theme which Pope Benedict has chosen for this year reminds us that behind all of the technology that surrounds us on a daily basis are human beings who are constantly searching for answers to life’s questions.  The Holy Father reminds us of the importance and value of silence and says: ‘if we are to recognise and focus upon the truly important questions, then silence is a precious commodity that enables us to exercise proper discernment in the face of the surcharge of stimuli and data that we receive’.”

Welcoming today’s theme Bishop Brennan said: “World Communications Day is a very important date in the calendar of the Universal Church.  It was the only worldwide celebration called for by the Second Vatican Council.  The text of Pope Benedict’s message for World Communications Day is issued today, the Feast of St Francis de Sales, the Patron Saint of journalists.  It is an appropriate time for society to recognise the valuable work that journalists undertake and their contribution to the common good.”  Please see the full text of Pope Benedict’s message below:

46th World Day of Communications – “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization”

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this World Communications Day 2012, I would like to share with you some reflections concerning an aspect of the human process of communication which, despite its importance, is often overlooked and which, at the present time, it would seem especially necessary to recall. It concerns the relationship between silence and word: two aspects of communication which need to be kept in balance, to alternate and to be integrated with one another if authentic dialogue and deep closeness between people are to be achieved. When word and silence become mutually exclusive, communication breaks down, either because it gives rise to confusion or because, on the contrary, it creates an atmosphere of coldness; when they complement one another, however, communication acquires value and meaning.

Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves. By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself; and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested. In this way, space is created for mutual listening, and deeper human relationships become possible. It is often in silence, for example, that we observe the most authentic communication taking place between people who are in love: gestures, facial expressions and body language are signs by which they reveal themselves to each other. Joy, anxiety, and suffering can all be communicated in silence – indeed it provides them with a particularly powerful mode of expression. Silence, then, gives rise to even more active communication, requiring sensitivity and a capacity to listen that often makes manifest the true measure and nature of the relationships involved. When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary. Deeper reflection helps us to discover the links between events that at first sight seem unconnected, to make evaluations, to analyze messages; this makes it possible to share thoughtful and relevant opinions, giving rise to an authentic body of shared knowledge. For this to happen, it is necessary to develop an appropriate environment, a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.

The process of communication nowadays is largely fuelled by questions in search of answers. Search engines and social networks have become the starting point of communication for many people who are seeking advice, ideas, information and answers. In our time, the internet is becoming ever more a forum for questions and answers – indeed, people today are frequently bombarded with answers to questions they have never asked and to needs of which they were unaware. If we are to recognize and focus upon the truly important questions, then silence is a precious commodity that enables us to exercise proper discernment in the face of the surcharge of stimuli and data that we receive. Amid the complexity and diversity of the world of communications, however, many people find themselves confronted with the ultimate questions of human existence: Who am I? What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope? It is important to affirm those who ask these questions, and to open up the possibility of a profound dialogue, by means of words and interchange, but also through the call to silent reflection, something that is often more eloquent than a hasty answer and permits seekers to reach into the depths of their being and open themselves to the path towards knowledge that God has inscribed in human hearts.

Ultimately, this constant flow of questions demonstrates the restlessness of human beings, ceaselessly searching for truths, of greater or lesser import, that can offer meaning and hope to their lives. Men and women cannot rest content with a superficial and unquestioning exchange of sceptical opinions and experiences of life – all of us are in search of truth and we share this profound yearning today more than ever: “When people exchange information, they are already sharing themselves, their view of the world, their hopes, their ideals” (Message for the 2011 World Day of Communications).

Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God. In concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible, profound thoughts can be communicated, as long as those taking part in the conversation do not neglect to cultivate their own inner lives. It is hardly surprising that different religious traditions consider solitude and silence as privileged states which help people to rediscover themselves and that Truth which gives meaning to all things. The God of biblical revelation speaks also without words: “As the Cross of Christ demonstrates, God also speaks by his silence. The silence of God, the experience of the distance of the almighty Father, is a decisive stage in the earthly journey of the Son of God, the incarnate Word …. God’s silence prolongs his earlier words. In these moments of darkness, he speaks through the mystery of his silence” (Verbum Domini, 21). The eloquence of God’s love, lived to the point of the supreme gift, speaks in the silence of the Cross. After Christ’s death there is a great silence over the earth, and on Holy Saturday, when “the King sleeps … and God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages” (cf. Office of Readings, Holy Saturday), God’s voice resounds, filled with love for humanity.

If God speaks to us even in silence, we in turn discover in silence the possibility of speaking with God and about God. “We need that silence which becomes contemplation, which introduces us into God’s silence and brings us to the point where the Word, the redeeming Word, is born” (Homily, Eucharistic Celebration with Members of the International Theological Commission, 6 October 2006). In speaking of God’s grandeur, our language will always prove inadequate and must make space for silent contemplation. Out of such contemplation springs forth, with all its inner power, the urgent sense of mission, the compelling obligation “to communicate that which we have seen and heard” so that all may be in communion with God (1 Jn 1:3). Silent contemplation immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbours so that we may feel their suffering and offer them the light of Christ, his message of life and his saving gift of the fullness of love.

In silent contemplation, then, the eternal Word, through whom the world was created, becomes ever more powerfully present and we become aware of the plan of salvation that God is accomplishing throughout our history by word and deed. As the Second Vatican Council reminds us, divine revelation is fulfilled by “deeds and words having an inner unity: the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them” (Dei Verbum, 2). This plan of salvation culminates in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the mediator and the fullness of all revelation. He has made known to us the true face of God the Father and by his Cross and Resurrection has brought us from the slavery of sin and death to the freedom of the children of God. The fundamental question of the meaning of human existence finds in the mystery of Christ an answer capable of bringing peace to the restless human heart. The Church’s mission springs from this mystery; and it is this mystery which impels Christians to become heralds of hope and salvation, witnesses of that love which promotes human dignity and builds justice and peace.

Word and silence: learning to communicate is learning to listen and contemplate as well as speak. This is especially important for those engaged in the task of evangelization: both silence and word are essential elements, integral to the Church’s work of communication for the sake of a renewed proclamation of Christ in today’s world. To Mary, whose silence “listens to the Word and causes it to blossom” (Private Prayer at the Holy House, Loreto, 1 September 2007), I entrust all the work of evangelization which the Church undertakes through the means of social communication.

From the Vatican, 24 January 2012, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales.

Notes to Editors

  • A press conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office to present Benedict XVI’s Message for the forty-sixth World Day of Social Communications, entitled: “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelisation”. Participating in today’s conference were Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, Msgr. Paul Tighe, Msgr. Giuseppe Antonio Scotti and Angelo Scelzo, respectively president, secretary, adjunct secretary and under secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.  Archbishop Celli recalled how, “each year in his Message for the World Day of Social Communications, the Pope has sought to analyse the culture of communication, offering guidance to modern man and directing the pastoral activity of the Church. Over recent years the Pope has been very attentive to the process and dynamics of communication, especially in the context of the cultural transformations that have arisen as a result of technological progress”.  This year, however, “the Holy Father turns his attention to a ‘classic’ aspect of communication: ‘silence’; or rather, the pairing of ‘silence and word’. This aspect … is becoming increasingly important in the context of digital culture”, noted the president of the pontifical council, going on to explain how Benedict XVI focuses upon the importance of silence as part of authentic communication. Silence can be a vehicle of expression, it gives others the chance to speak and us the opportunity to listen, think and reflect, the archbishop said. “In essence, it is in silence that I am able to give communication its correct significance, and to avoid being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of communication itself. “Silence has particular importance in the context of that incessant flow of questions which, in a certain sense, is the driving force of modern communication culture”, he added. The Pope suggests “that at the heart of this flow of questions lies a fundamental question, which is the search for Truth. Here again the importance of silence emerges, as a place where human beings must face themselves and God”. In silence mankind discovers “the possibility to speak with God and about God”. For this reason Benedict XVI reminds people engaged in the task of evangelisation that “both silence and word are essential elements, integral to the Church’s work of communication for the sake of a renewed proclamation of Christ in today’s world”.
  • 24 January is the Feast of St Francis de Sales, the Patron Saint of writers and journalists. St Francis was born in Savoy in 1567.  He was educated at home first and then studied rhetoric, philosophy and theology at the University of Paris. In 1591 he became a Doctor of Law at Padua.  History tells us that could have had a brilliant career, but he refused many opportunities because he wanted more than anything else to become a priest – much to his father’s disappointment.  However, he eventually won his father’s consent and was ordained in 1593.  St Francis soon became known for being a distinguished preacher and for his service to the poor.  In 1593 he made the journey to Chablais to undertake the task of converting the people from Calvinism.  In spite of many dangers – there were attempts on his life and he travelled through wild parts of the country inhabited by wolves – he survived, and preached Catholic doctrine with great love and understanding, patience and gentleness. These were to be the main hallmarks of his life.  One of his favourite sayings was “you can attract more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a whole jar of vinegar.”  St Francis became bishop of Geneva in 1602.  He excelled in administrative work, preaching, teaching and spiritual direction.  During these years he wrote The Treatise of the Love of God, followed by the Introduction to the Devout Life, which was aimed at lay people.  This was instantly acclaimed as filling a long felt need and was translated into several languages.  St Frances was very important in the revival of French Catholicism in the 17th century, but his works have appealed to Christians for many generations all over the world.  He died at Lyon in 1622, was canonised in 1665, and made a Doctor of the Church in 1877.
  • Bishop John McAreavey, Bishop of Dromore and Bishop Denis Brennan, Bishop of Ferns, are co-chairs of the Council for Communications of the Irish Bishop’s Conference
  • The 45th World Day of Social Communications will be celebrated on Sunday 20 May 2012, the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord and the Sunday before the Solemnity of Pentecost
  • Previous themes addressed by Pope Benedict in his messages for World Communications Day have been:

2006: The Media: A Network for Communication, Communion and Cooperation
2007: Children and the Media: a Challenge for Education.
2008: The Media: At the Crossroads between Self-Promotion and Service. Searching for the Truth in order to Share it with Others
2009: New Technologies, New Relationships. Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship
2010: The priest and pastoral ministry in a digital world: new media at the service of the Word
2011: Truth, proclamation and authenticity of life in the digital age


For further information please contact the Catholic Communications Office: Martin Long 00 353 (0) 861727678 and Brenda Drumm 00 353 (0) 873104444