Pope Francis has chosen Fear not, for I am with you (Is 43:5): Communicating Hope and Trust in our Time as the theme for his message for World Communications Day 2017. The text of the Pope’s message was published on 24 January, the Feast of Saint Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, editors and journalists. The 51st World Communications Day will be formally celebrated on Sunday 28 May next – the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord – which falls on the Sunday before Pentecost Sunday.
Welcoming this year’s message, Archbishop Eamon Martin, who is chair of the Council for Communications of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said: “I warmly welcome the theme and the tone of Pope Francis’ message for this year’s World Communications Day which focuses on trust, hope, encounter, positivity, and responsibility in communications. Pope Francis introduces his theme by sharing the words from Isaiah Fear not, for I am with you.
“When I read Pope Francis’ message, I was struck by how timely it is in asking us all to engage in constructive forms of communication that reject prejudice towards others and foster a culture of encounter.
“When I look back at 2016 it seems to have been a year which carried a lot of bad news in the headlines and on the airwaves. In his message Pope Francis says that he is convinced that ‘we have to break the vicious circle of anxiety and stem the spiral of fear resulting from a constant focus on bad news (wars, terrorism, scandals and all sorts of human failure).’ At first glance this would seem to suggest that we should switch off from bad news or ignore the human suffering around us in our world. That is not the case. As a Gospel people we are people of hope. What Pope Francis is inviting us to do is to ‘work at overcoming that feeling of growing discontent and resignation that can at times generate apathy, fear or the idea that evil has no limits. Moreover, in a communications industry which thinks that good news does not sell, and where the tragedy of human suffering and the mystery of evil easily turn into entertainment, there is always the temptation that our consciences can be dulled or slip into pessimism.’
“One of the lines that I was most struck by in the Holy Father’s message is when he asks everyone to ‘offer the people of our time storylines that are at heart good news’. We addressed this issue with Pope Francis when we met him last Friday as part of our Ad Limina visit. The Good News that Pope Francis speaks about in his message is the same ‘Joy of the Gospel’ we spoke to him about last Friday. This message of hope and positivity about conversion and starting over, about forgiveness and reconciliation, about the sacredness of all human life and the wonder of God’s creation, about marriage, family and solidarity, about charity, truth and justice is a message the world needs to hear now more than ever.
“As the bishops of Ireland conclude our Ad Limina in Rome today, we do so in the knowledge that we are emboldened by the Joy of the Gospel and we are more determined than ever to spread this message in and out of season.
“In his message Pope Francis invites us to change the lens through which we view things and to always have hope. He says, ‘Hope is born, a hope accessible to everyone, at the very crossroads where life meets the bitterness of failure.’ Pope Francis also says that ‘Confidence in the seed of God’s Kingdom and in the mystery of Easter should also shape the way we communicate’. This confidence is what enables us to carry out the work we need to do.
“I invite all engaged in communications – professionally or privately on digital media – to take a few minutes to read this message which is refreshing in its tone and relevant in its content. Pope Francis seeks to remind us that good news can sell, and that we can all be beacons in the darkness of this world, shedding light along the way and opening ever new paths of confidence and hope.”
Click here to read hte full text of Pope Francis’ message for World Communications Day 2017.
The World Day of Social Communications, which the Church celebrates on 28 May 2017, is the only World Day established by the Second Vatican Council. In 1963 the Council issued the Decree on the tools of social communication, Inter mirifica, which included the proposal that the Church should celebrate a day dedicated to social communications.