Pope Francis’ Message on 55th World Communications Day
Posted date: May 12, 2021
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
FOR THE 2021 WORLD COMMUNICATIONS DAY
“Come and See” (Jn 1:46). Communicating by Encountering People Where and as They Are
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The invitation to “come and see”, which was part of those first moving encounters of Jesus with the disciples, is also the method for all authentic human communication. In order to tell the truth of life that becomes history (cf. Message for the 54th World Communications Day, 24 January 2020), it is necessary to move beyond the complacent attitude that we “already know” certain things. Instead, we need to go and see them for ourselves, to spend time with people, to listen to their stories and to confront reality, which always in some way surprises us. “Open your eyes with wonder to what you see, let your hands touch the freshness and vitality of things, so that when others read what you write, they too can touch first-hand the vibrant miracle of life”. This was the advice that Blessed Manuel Lozano Garrido offered to his fellow journalists. This year, then, I would like to devote this Message to the invitation to “come and see”, which can serve as an inspiration for all communication that strives to be clear and honest, in the press, on the internet, in the Church’s daily preaching and in political or social communication. “Come and see!” This has always been the way that the Christian faith has been communicated, from the time of those first encounters on the banks of the River Jordan and on the Sea of Galilee.
“Hitting the streets”
Let us look first at the great issue of news reporting. Insightful voices have long expressed concern about the risk that original investigative reporting in newspapers and television, radio and web newscasts is being replaced by a reportage that adheres to a standard, often tendentious narrative. This approach is less and less capable of grasping the truth of things and the concrete lives of people, much less the more serious social phenomena or positive movements at the grass roots level. The crisis of the publishing industry risks leading to a reportage created in newsrooms, in front of personal or company computers and on social networks, without ever “hitting the streets”, meeting people face to face to research stories or to verify certain situations first hand. Unless we open ourselves to this kind of encounter, we remain mere spectators, for all the technical innovations that enable us to feel immersed in a larger and more immediate reality. Any instrument proves useful and valuable only to the extent that it motivates us to go out and see things that otherwise we would not know about, to post on the internet news that would not be available elsewhere, to allow for encounters that otherwise would never happen.
The Gospels as news stories
“Come and see” were the first words that Jesus spoke to the disciples who were curious about him following his baptism in the Jordan river (Jn 1:39). He invited them to enter into a relationship with him. More than half a century later, when John, now an old man, wrote his Gospel, he recalled several “newsworthy” details that reveal that he was personally present at the events he reports and demonstrate the impact that the experience had on his life. “It was about the tenth hour”, he noted, that is, about four in the afternoon (cf. v. 39). The next day – John also tells us – Philip told Nathaniel about his encounter with the Messiah. His friend is sceptical and asks: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip does not try to win him over with good reasons, but simply tells him: “Come and see” (cf. vv. 45-46). Nathaniel did go and see, and from that moment his life was changed. That is how Christian faith begins, and how it is communicated: as direct knowledge, born of experience, and not of hearsay. “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves”. So the townspeople told the Samaritan woman, after Jesus stayed in their village (cf. Jn 4:39-42). “Come and see” is the simplest method to get to know a situation. It is the most honest test of every message, because, in order to know, we need to encounter, to let the person in front of me speak, to let his or her testimony reach me.
Thanks to the courage of many journalists
Journalism too, as an account of reality, calls for an ability to go where no one else thinks of going: a readiness to set out and a desire to see. Curiosity, openness, passion. We owe a word of gratitude for the courage and commitment of all those professionals – journalists, camera operators, editors, directors – who often risk their lives in carrying out their work. Thanks to their efforts, we now know, for example, about the hardships endured by persecuted minorities in various parts of the world, numerous cases of oppression and injustice inflicted on the poor and on the environment, and many wars that otherwise would be overlooked. It would be a loss not only for news reporting, but for society and for democracy as a whole, were those voices to fade away. Our entire human family would be impoverished.
Many situations in our world, even more so in this time of pandemic, are inviting the communications media to “come and see”. We can risk reporting the pandemic, and indeed every crisis, only through the lens of the richer nations, of “keeping two sets of books”. For example, there is the question of vaccines, and medical care in general, which risks excluding the poorer peoples. Who would keep us informed about the long wait for treatment in the poverty-stricken villages of Asia, Latin America and Africa? Social and economic differences on the global level risk dictating the order of distribution of anti-Covid vaccines, with the poor always at the end of the line and the right to universal health care affirmed in principle, but stripped of real effect. Yet even in the world of the more fortunate, the social tragedy of families rapidly slipping into poverty remains largely hidden; people who are no longer ashamed to wait in line before charitable organizations in order to receive a package of provisions do not tend to make news.
Opportunities and hidden dangers on the web
The internet, with its countless social media expressions, can increase the capacity for reporting and sharing, with many more eyes on the world and a constant flood of images and testimonies. Digital technology gives us the possibility of timely first-hand information that is often quite useful. We can think of certain emergency situations where the internet was the first to report the news and communicate official notices. It is a powerful tool, which demands that all of us be responsible as users and consumers. Potentially we can all become witnesses to events that otherwise would be overlooked by the traditional media, offer a contribution to society and highlight more stories, including positive ones. Thanks to the internet we have the opportunity to report what we see, what is taking place before our eyes, and to share it with others.
At the same time, the risk of misinformation being spread on social media has become evident to everyone. We have known for some time that news and even images can be easily manipulated, for any number of reasons, at times simply for sheer narcissism. Being critical in this regard is not about demonizing the internet, but is rather an incentive to greater discernment and responsibility for contents both sent and received. All of us are responsible for the communications we make, for the information we share, for the control that we can exert over fake news by exposing it. All of us are to be witnesses of the truth: to go, to see and to share.
Nothing replaces seeing things at first hand
In communications, nothing can ever completely replace seeing things in person. Some things can only be learned through first-hand experience. We do not communicate merely with words, but with our eyes, the tone of our voice and our gestures. Jesus’ attractiveness to those who met him depended on the truth of his preaching; yet the effectiveness of what he said was inseparable from how he looked at others, from how he acted towards them, and even from his silence. The disciples not only listened to his words; they watched him speak. Indeed in him – the incarnate Logos – the Word took on a face; the invisible God let himself be seen, heard and touched, as John himself tells us (cf. 1 Jn 1:1-3). The word is effective only if it is “seen”, only if it engages us in experience, in dialogue. For this reason, the invitation to “come and see” was, and continues to be, essential.
We think of how much empty rhetoric abounds, even in our time, in all areas of public life, in business as well as politics. This or that one “speaks an infinite deal of nothing… His reasons are as two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff: you shall seek all day ere you find them, and when you have them, they are not worth the search. The blistering words of the English playwright also apply to us as Christian communicators. The Good News of the Gospel spread throughout the world as a result of person-to-person, heart-to-heart encounters with men and women who accepted the invitation to “come and see”, and were struck by the “surplus” of humanity that shone through the gaze, the speech and the gestures of those who bore witness to Jesus Christ. Every tool has its value, and that great communicator who was Paul of Tarsus would certainly have made use of email and social messaging. Yet it was his faith, hope and charity that impressed those of his contemporaries who heard him preach or had the good fortune to spend time with him, to see him during an assembly or in individual conversation. Watching him in action wherever he was, they saw for themselves how true and fruitful for their lives was the message of salvation that, by God’s grace, he had come to preach. Even where this servant of God could not be encountered personally, the disciples whom he sent bore witness to his way of life in Christ (cf. 1 Cor 4:17).
“We have books in our hands, but the facts before our eyes”, said Saint Augustine in speaking of fulfilment of the prophecies found in sacred Scripture. So too, the Gospel comes alive in our own day, whenever we accept the compelling witness of people whose lives have been changed by their encounter with Jesus. For two millennia, a chain of such encounters has communicated the attractiveness of the Christian adventure. The challenge that awaits us, then, is to communicate by encountering people, where they are and as they are.
Lord, teach us to move beyond ourselves,
and to set out in search of truth.
Teach us to go out and see,
teach us to listen,
not to entertain prejudices
or draw hasty conclusions.
Teach us to go where no one else will go,
to take the time needed to understand,
to pay attention to the essentials,
not to be distracted by the superfluous,
to distinguish deceptive appearances from the truth.
Grant us the grace to recognize your dwelling places in our world
and the honesty needed to tell others what we have seen.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 23 January 2021, Vigil of the Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales
 Spanish journalist (1920-1971), beatified in 2010.
 WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, The Merchant of Venice, Act 1, Scene 1.
 Sermo 360/B, 20.
第 55 届世界传播日文告
「你来看一看吧！」这个邀请，不仅是耶稣与门徒们初次相遇时动人的一幕，同时也是众人的真实交流方式。为了讲述成为故事的生命事实（参阅：第 54 届世界传播日文告，2020 年 1 月 24 日），我们必须跨出自满的心态── 觉得自己「已经知道」某些事情。相反地，我们应该亲自去看看他们，去花时间跟别人相处，去聆听他们的故事，接触那总是令人惊奇的现实。「用你惊奇的眼光去观看，让你的手感受到事物的鲜活，以致别人在看你写的东西时，他们也可以触摸到生命的奇迹，跃然纸上。」这是真福路山诺（Manuel Lozano Garrido）1 给其它记者同侪们的建议。因此，今年我想藉此文告作一个邀请：「来看看吧」，呼吁新闻界、网络、教会每天的讲道、政治或社会论坛，在表达时能做到清楚忠实的沟通。「来看看吧！」──从约旦河岸、加里肋亚海的那些初次相遇开始，一直都是基督信仰的传播方式。
在约旦河受洗之后，耶稣对好奇祂的首批门徒说：「你们来看看吧！」（若一 39），藉此邀请他们和自己往来。时隔半个多世纪，当年事已高的若望在撰写福音时，回想起一些「有报导价值」的细节，其中不但透露了在他所报导的事件中，他当时就在现场，同时也描述了那段经历对他人生的影响。他写道：「那时，大约是第十时辰。」也就是下午四点（参阅：若一 39）。若望还告诉我们，翌日，斐理伯跟纳塔乃耳说了自己与默西亚的相遇。他的朋友怀疑地问道：「从纳匝肋还能出什么好事吗？」斐理伯没打算以理服人，只是跟他说：「你来看一看吧！」纳塔乃耳确实去看了，而从那时起，他的人生有了转变。基督信仰的开始和传递，就是这样：作为直接的知识，由经验而来，而非传言。所以在耶稣住下了以后，城里的人对那撒玛黎雅妇人说：「现在我们信，不是为了你的话，而是因为我们亲自听见了」（参阅：若四 39~42）。「来看一看」是了解状况最简单的方式；同时也是对所有讯息最实在的检验，因为若要了解状况，我们必须跟人见面，让眼前的人说话，听取对方的见证。
在沟通交流上，没有任何东西能够完全取代亲眼所见的事物。有些事情就是要亲身体验，方能有所领会。我们实际上的沟通，不只是靠文字来 写或讲，还有眼神、语调和手势。对于见到耶稣的人来说，祂的魅力来自于祂所宣讲的真理；然而，祂如何看人、如何待人，以及祂的静默，却与祂说话的果效密不可分。门徒们不只是听祂说话，也在祂说话时看着祂。永生的话（Logos）降生成人，在祂──圣言（Word）──身上，确实显露了面容；正如若望所述（参阅：若壹一 1~3），不可见的天主使自己可以被看见、被听见、被触摸。言语若是要有果效，就必须「被看见」，必须使我们都能一起经验，都能参与到对话当中。因此，「来看看吧！」这个邀请，不论是在过去或是将来，都至关重要。
我们留意到在我们的时代，在社会生活的各种领域，在生意和政治场合，到底充斥了多少空洞的言语。有的人「拉上一大堆废话。他的道理就像藏在两桶砻糠里的两粒麦子，你必须费去整天工夫才能够把它们找到，可是找到了它们以后，你会觉得费这许多气力找它们出来，是一点不值得的。」2 这番英国剧作家的激烈言词，同样也适用于身为基督徒传播者的我们身上。福音的喜讯之所以能广传于世，是来自人与人、心与心的相遇；人们接受了「来看一看」的邀请，同时，在为耶稣基督作见证的人身上，从他们的注视、言谈和手势中，那种人性的「光辉」也打动了人心。每个工具都有它的价值，而那位伟大的传播者──塔尔索人保禄，他肯定也会用电邮跟社群软件来传讯息。但不论是听过他讲道、有幸与他共处的，还是在集会中见过他、单独与他交谈的人，真正让同时代的人印象深刻的，是他的信德、望德和爱德。他们看到，无论他身在何处，总是在积极地活动；借着天主的恩宠，他们也亲眼目睹了他所宣讲的救恩讯息对他们的生命是多么的真实而丰盛。即便无法与这位天主的仆人相遇，但他所打发的门徒，也同样能为他在基督内的生活方式作见证。（参阅：格前四 17）
2021 年 1 月 23 日，圣师方济‧沙雷主教纪念日前夕
1 西班牙记者（1920~1971），2021 年列为真福。
3 《道理》（Sermo ）360／B，20。