The Vatican

Synod and communication. Information fasting and priority of listening

Journalists will not have access to the Synod meetings because "the news is in the way an institution as large as the Church allows itself a moment of common discernment in silence."

Antonino Piccione-October 7, 2023-Reading time: 4 minutes

"In this Synod - also to make room for the Holy Spirit - there is the priority of listening, there is this priority". The Pope recalled this in his greeting at the opening of the first General Congregation, in Paul VI Hall. 

The Pope dedicated the last part of his greeting to the work that, in his opinion, assembly members and communicators should do before this synod.

To the participants of the Synod, the Pope said: "We have to give a message to the press operators, to the journalists, who do a very beautiful, very good job. We have to give precisely a communication that is a reflection of this life in the Holy Spirit. We need an asceticism - excuse me for speaking to journalists in this way - a certain fasting from the public word to guard this. And whatever is published, let it be in this climate. Some will say - they are saying it - that the bishops are afraid and that is why they do not want journalists to speak. No, the work of journalists is very important. But we must help them to say this, this walking in the Spirit. And more than the priority of speaking, there is the priority of listening." 

As for the media professionals, he said: "I ask journalists to please make people understand this, so that they know that the priority is to listen. The Pope added that "some hypotheses are circulating about this Synod: 'what are they going to do', 'perhaps the priesthood for women'; I don't know, these things that are said outside. And many times they say that the bishops are afraid to communicate what is happening. That is why I ask you, communicators, to fulfill your function well, adequately, so that the Church and people of good will - the others will say what they want - understand that also in the Church there is the priority of listening".

The Pope and communicators

At the end of August, Francis, receiving the "It's Journalism" award, had relaunched "the urgency of constructive communication, which favors the culture of encounter and not of clash; the culture of peace and not of war; the culture of openness to the other and not of prejudice". Once again, the Pope warned of the "sins of journalism": disinformation, slander, defamation and coprophilia.

"Please, let us not give in to the logic of opposition, let us not allow ourselves to be conditioned by the language of hatred," the Pontiff pointed out. With the appeal to cultivate the principle of reality, which is always "superior to the idea". In order not to run the risk of "the information society becoming the society of disinformation". 

Referring to the Synod on Synodality, the Pope pointed out that "the Church today offers the world, a world so often incapable of making decisions, even when our very survival is at stake".

"We are trying to learn a new way of living relationships, of listening to one another in order to hear and follow the voice of the Spirit - Francis pointed out - We have opened our doors, we have offered everyone the opportunity to participate, we have taken into account the needs and suggestions of all. We want to contribute together to build a Church where everyone feels at home, where no one is excluded. That word of the Gospel that is so important: everyone. Everyone, everyone: there are no first, second or third class Catholics: no. We want to build a Church where everyone feels at home, where no one is excluded. All together. All together. This is the Lord's invitation... That is why I dare to ask you, the masters of journalism, for help in this: help me to tell this process as it really is, leaving behind the logic of slogans and prefabricated stories".

"Information Fasting" at the Synod

"Stop. Listen to yourself. It is a challenge that deserves to be told. It is the first novelty of this Synod." This was reiterated by Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication and president of the Assembly's Commission for Information, at the briefing with journalists, which took place on Thursday, October 5, at the Holy See Press Office.

"The other members of the Information Commission will be elected on Monday morning," the prefect noted. "Yesterday you were able to follow the first day in full," he told the journalists. "Today, as you know, the minor circles began, which by their nature are part of those moments that must be preserved in their confidentiality."

"The Pope explained why," the prefect recalled: "To give priority to listening to others and to the Holy Spirit. To pause in the hubbub in which we are immersed. To discern, fasting from the public word".

This fast does not imply that there is nothing to write about," Ruffini told reporters. In any case, the news is here. In this suspension of time. In this silence that deafens in its own way because it is totally different from the routine of the public word, which has become accustomed to the stereotype of the retort'.

In reality, for Ruffini, "the news is in the way in which an institution as large as the Church allows itself a moment of common discernment in silence, listening, faith, communion and prayer. The news is in this fast, in this stop".

The Synod, he added in response to a question, is "a body", it is "an experience of sharing" that wants to "take the time to discern". The synodal journey will continue in discernment and there is no need to wait for decisions because we are "halfway through", in "a process that ensures that everyone can present their point of view" and "reach a consensus in communion".

For the Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, discernment, therefore, is the guiding criterion for synodal reflection, starting from the main question: "Starting from the journey of the local Church from which each one comes and from the contents of the Instrumentum laboris, What distinctive signs of a synodal Church emerge most clearly and which ones need to be more clearly recognized, emphasized or deepened?"

There are 8 "points for prayer and preparatory reflection". The ability to learn to listen as a characteristic of a synodal Church is the focus of the fourth track. With a question about which resources are possessed and which are lacking.

In essence: How can the ability to listen become an increasingly recognized and recognizable feature of our communities?

The authorAntonino Piccione

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