With the slogan "Come and see' (Jn 1:46). Communicate by meeting people where they are and what they are like"., Pope Francis encourages to "get going, go and see, be with people, listen to them". The call to "go and see" is a suggestion for every form of "communicative expression," says the Holy Father, and "it is the way in which the Christian faith has been communicated, beginning with the first encounters on the banks of the Jordan River and Lake Galilee."
"This is how the Christian faith begins. And it is communicated in this way: as a direct knowledge, born of experience, not of hearsay." stresses the Message. "The "come and see" is the simplest method for knowing a reality. It is the most honest verification of any proclamation, because in order to know it is necessary to encounter, to allow the one in front of me to speak to me, to let his testimony reach me".
The Papal Message then draws on one of St. Augustine's sermons, when he says: "In our hands are books, in our eyes are deeds". "The Gospel is repeated today," continues the Vicar of Christ, "every time we receive the limpid witness of people whose lives have been changed by an encounter with Jesus. For more than two thousand years a chain of encounters has been communicating the fascination of the Christian adventure. The challenge that awaits us, therefore, is to communicate by meeting people where they are and as they are".
Witnesses to the truth
"Journalism, too, as an account of reality, requires the ability to go where no one else goes: a movement and a desire to see. A curiosity, an openness, a passion," says Francis, who says that the network, with its countless social expressions, "can multiply the ability to tell and share," but recognizes "the risks of a social communication lacking in controls" and "easy to manipulate."
Therefore, the Pope calls for "a greater capacity for discernment and a more mature sense of responsibility" because "we are all responsible for the communication we do, for the information we give, for the control that together we can exercise over false news, unmasking it. We are all called to be witnesses to the truth: to go, to see and to share".
Personally, I would like to go a step further in these lines, from a professional and Christian perspective, keeping in mind events, seminars that are taking place during these weeks, and personal readings.
The Pope refers to the immense possibilities, so real, of digital technology. "Potentially we can all become witnesses of events that the traditional media would otherwise overlook, give our civil contribution, make more stories emerge, even positive ones. Thanks to the network we have the possibility to relate what we see, what happens in front of our eyes, to share testimonies."
Indeed, it is true that "in communication, nothing can completely replace the fact of seeing in person. Some things can be learned only through experience," warns the Message; but it is no less true, in my humble opinion, that in the transmission of the faith, as in the transmission of information or news of current events, a key factor is required: trust. Trust in the person or persons who transmit.
Trust is key
Most newsrooms are made up of people who look for information and are in direct contact with people -we could call them direct witnesses- and other professionals who analyze and transmit it. All of them are necessary. And trust, trusting each other, is of utmost importance.
We trust these reporters to tell the truth, even to the point of giving their lives, as was the case with the journalists David Beriáin and Roberto Fraile, killed a few days ago in Burkina Faso in the exercise of their profession, and to whom the Spanish bishops have expressed in their Message of these days "our recognition, gratitude and prayer. They gave their lives for our freedom.
The trust we are referring to obviously refers to the trust that Nathanael had with Philip when the latter said to him: "Come and see" ["Nathanael goes and sees, and from that moment his life changes," writes Pope Francis]. But also to that of journalists and communicators in the way they work with information and value it; that of people in their work, in their family and social relationships; or that of these same people when they interact in social networks or listen to the messages issued by institutions or politicians. Or to the credibility of the same institutions, or people, when issuing their messages. And the deterioration is worrying. We trust less and less, as is being proven in these times of pandemic with vaccination, but not only in this aspect.
It is important to revitalize confidence, in particular in the witnesses, in the direct witnesses we mentioned before, and in the indirect witnesses, in the institutions, in the people. The Congress "Inspiring trust" (Inspiring Trust), organized by the University of Santa Croce in Rome, is speaking precisely about this, at a time when distrust and suspicion is affecting everyone, including the Church.
We can all be influencers
In the transmission of the faith, since "we are all called to be witnesses to the truth", as the Pope emphasizes, it may be well to keep in mind what St. Paul VI said in Evangelii NuntiandiContemporary man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers. Mariano Fazio, auxiliary vicar of Opus Dei, who was the first dean of the Faculty of Institutional Social Communication at the aforementioned pontifical university.
In the chapter entitled "Being an Influencer" in his book "Transforming the World from Within" (Palabra), Bishop Fazio writes: "Many will say: but I have neither the capacity, nor the means, nor the opportunities to occupy an influential position in society. But those who think this way would be mistaken: we can all be influencers in the sphere in which we carry out our daily activities".
An anecdote from Newman
The author recounts that in 1850, John Henry Newman, now canonized, organized conferences for the Catholics of Birmingham. In them he urged them "to be truly Catholic, to profess their faith without fear, to form themselves doctrinally." "Newman was not so much concerned about what The Times might say or what was being talked about in the halls of Parliament," Bishop Fazio notes, "but what he called 'local opinion,' that is, what Anglicans in city and village neighborhoods had to say about their Catholic neighbors. And he urged the latter to have prestige wherever they lived. The Anglican butcher, baker, hairdresser, newspaper seller or greengrocer would change his mind [the Holy See had reestablished the Catholic Hierarchy in England and the controversy arose], when he saw how good the English Catholics were".
We will talk about the signs of trust, or how to inspire trust, among which are integrity or consistency; competence or professional capacity; and benevolence (wishing the good of the other or others), issues mentioned by Professor Juan Narbona in the aforementioned webinar "Inspiring trust" from Rome, we will talk about them another day.
Footnote This writer, who is nobody, is concerned that the lecterns of the temples in his city, with honorable exceptions, rarely mention the Pope's messages, nor those of the bishops, except for some official text on capacity in the temples, for example.
Journalist and writer. Graduate in Information Sciences from the University of Navarra. He has directed and collaborated in media specialized in economics, politics, society and religion. He is the winner of the Ángel Herrera Oria 2020 journalism award.