International Days of St. Francis de Sales

Some 250 Catholic journalists and communicators from around the world will gather in Lourdes (France) from January 25 to 27, 2023, for the 26th edition of the St. Francis de Sales Days, a professional conference where participants are called to deepen their mission as transmitters of the faith and to seek new forms of dialogue with today's increasingly secularized world.

Leticia Sánchez de León-November 30, 2022-Reading time: 4 minutes
Journalism and faith

Journalists are called to be "God's microphones" (Photo: Unsplash / Arthur Miranda).

"Journalism and religious convictions"; "accessibility to the media"; "media and truth", "social networks and proximity"...these and others are just a few examples of the topics discussed each year at these international conferences. Far from being just another event on communication or journalism, the Jornadas de St. Francis de Salesalways organized on dates close to the feast of the patron saint of journalists, are a moment of formation - in the profession - and also spiritual. 

A highlight of the conference will be the already confirmed presence of Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See, who will give a speech during the congress on his mission to the Holy See and will present the Jacques Hamel Award.

François Vayne, a Vatican expert and one of the organizers of the event, speaks of the ultimate motivation of the Conference: "The Catholic press has a very urgent mission, which is to bear witness to a faith that is lived, incarnated, through testimonies and stories that go beyond the misunderstandings caused by the repeated scandals in the clergy. We must not confuse the Church with the institution alone; the Church is a people that forms the Body of Christ, a people in which the laity are priests, prophets and kings through their baptism. This is what we will talk about at Lourdes, asking the Virgin Mary for her support and protection."

As Vayne explains, the venue for the conference has changed over the years: "Years ago they were held in Annecy, Savoy, the city where St. Francis was bishop and where his mortal remains are located; but as of 2018, Lourdes was chosen as the new venue for the conference, to be able to invite journalists from other countries, because it is a more international place." 

The event has been organized, once again, by the Federation of Catholic Media of France together with the SIGNIS association (the World Catholic Association for Communication) and UCSI, (the Catholic Union of the Italian Press). Also part of the organization is the Dicastery for Communication, which joined the initiative for the first time in 2018 and since then has been collaborating in its promotion. 

Catholics and non-Catholics

Although the St. Francis de Sales Days are born with a Catholic perspective and the chosen location indicates the marked spiritual aspect of the same, the truth is that they are also open to non-Catholics or those who do not work for confessional media. In this sense, the event constitutes the axis of an open dialogue among the attendees where life and work experiences are exchanged, difficulties and challenges of the profession are shared, and where there is also space for prayer.

In this regard, the first day of the conference is scheduled a guided tour of the sanctuary, where attendees can see the esplanade, the basilica and the grotto where the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858. 

The subject

The objective of the conference is clear; with several high-level speakers and professionals in the sector (professors, sociologists, experts in communication sciences, specialists in digital technology, etc.), influencersThe event is a call to reflect on the mission and responsibility of the media in the transmission of Christian values:

"The only way to transmit the faith in this secularized world is to bear witness to the lived Gospel, especially through articles and reports. Secularization does not mean that faith is dead, for while society rejects institutional discourses that often contradict the facts, at the same time it is thirsty for a witness of life that manifests the search for God," says François Vayne. "In France, the cases of abuse cause the Church to lose credibility, but the authenticity of the testimony of an actor like Gad Elmaleh, who has just shot a film in which he expresses his affection for the Virgin Mary, stirs consciences and arouses in many young people the desire for an interior renewal, restoring to the Catholic faith all its relevance. In transmitting this type of testimony, Catholic journalists play an essential role so that the Gospel is not rejected when the discourse of the clergy is rejected."

The Jacques Hamel Award will also be presented during the Conference by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin. This award is named after the priest Jacques Hamel, who was assassinated by Islamic terrorists in France while celebrating the Eucharist. This award rewards initiatives in favor of peace and, in particular, interreligious dialogue, in the spirit of the encyclical Fratelli tutti.

Microphones of God

Everyone knows the power of the media in the transmission of certain values and, in this sense, the conference wants to emphasize the great responsibility of journalists, editors, communicators, etc., to be "microphones of God" - as St. Oscar Romero said - and the importance, therefore, of being professional in their work, to be truthful, to adapt to the new media, to provide weighty analysis, to adapt the language used to the different audiences, etc., all this to be better bearers of the Faith in the world. In this line, Helen Osman, president of SIGNIS, one of the promoters of the event, said in an interview in 2018: "as Catholic journalists and communicators we must have two virtues in balance: to provide careful reporting and analysis, with an efficiency and clarity that allow an impact in today's world". 

And it is precisely this impact that the Days seek: the impact of well-constructed reports, well-documented articles or stories that move and touch, that bear witness to the beauty of a living Faith, of very real people, that reflect the true face of the Church, and that makes its way, so often, in the midst of echoes of indifference and radicalism.

The authorLeticia Sánchez de León

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