The global communicator: ” “Words and gestures of the Gospel

Pope Francis addresses the spokespersons of European Bishops' Conferences

Nobody can deny it: Pope Francis is a global communicator. It’s an unexpected gift for the Catholic Church, but also for a world striving for caresses and even for the global communications system, always in search of novelty. But the media world is diseased by futility, unable to go beyond the surface of front page news, willing to amplify whatever has a semblance of gossip, more sensitive to external traits than to the quest for meaning, piqued by anything that can have a distant resemblance with scandal, attracted by the tile and indifferent to the complexity of the mosaic, awaiting famous personages’ blunder to put them to the pillory. Moreover, before the limits of this global communication, Pope Francis has decided to go straight along his way, willing to face some risks but to stay true to himself, in gestures and words. Of this are aware all those who in Europe coordinate communication in the Catholic Church at the level of bishops’ conferences, as dioceses and communities. The theme was the object of the annual meeting of press officers and spokespersons of European Churches held in Lisbon June 11-14. Thus, this season of the Church, despite the overall economic crisis that is putting to dire test the publishing sector, appears to be a propitious time for self-questioning in two areas highlighted by Francis. The first is to reduce the gaps of those communicators and recipients. This is the distinctive trait of the presence of the Pope in the public realm that causes unending wonder, even to the cost of running personal risks. But he said it clearly: better to have a battered or bruised Church that is present in people’s lives, with words that arrive straight to everyone’s hearts, without mediations which at times have charged the Christian message with unsustainable morality (the so-called “mores”). The immediate resonance of his words increased communicators’ awareness of their own responsibility: his words don’t lend to interpretation. There is no mediation that could add something more. Even theologians had to reconsider their language and style. Second: Francis’ eloquent gestures erode formalities and reaffirm the very essence of Christian life. From this perspective, television with the force of dilated and repeated images has a decisive role. An example for all: the washing of the feet of the Muslim girl or the prolonged embrace of the disfigured man. There is no man or woman in any continent that has failed to understand it. This immediacy, combined with exemplarity, grants full significance to the gestures of the Pope who seems to be telling us: if I do it, why shouldn’t you try to do the same? Words and gestures of Francis are thus strengthening the credibility of the Church and of believers alike. It’s a great responsibility on the shoulders of all Catholic communicators. We can no longer, in Europe as in the rest of the Catholic world, overlook the need to find new ways of narrating Christian life. We know we are running more risks today compared to the past, but we are also aware that Francis has decided to break away from conventions, to show that he is his own guardian, to trigger sound uncertainties inside the Church and various expectations also in the secular world. This charges with responsibility all those who have a role in the public communication of the Church, also, perhaps especially, in ramshackle Europe. But not living this season of freedom till the end would be worse than an unconscious mistake in good faith. So as Catholic communicators let us take the responsibility of a new narration: that of a Church that acts. This is not the season of proclamations. Pope Francis, with his gestures and words, has a caress for all of us and enables us to breath out in relief. This is what the world needs. This awareness will help us, Catholic communicators, to make fewer mistakes.

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