The Pope: Communicate, an exercise that avoids self-referentiality

At the meeting in the Paul VI Hall with thousands of readers of the most widely distributed Catholic magazine in Italy, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary, the Holy Father’s invitation to journalists is to be attentive to relationships as the center of communicative practice and to “networks ” as places to search for new forms of presence and action. The method to apply -he affirms- is always dialogue and listening.

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“Like a good grandmother, who has seen so much and has acquired wisdom”: this is how Pope Francis begins his address to the great family of “Familia Cristiana”, the most widely distributed Catholic magazine in Italy, which has reached the milestone of 90 years of life. He recalls its genesis, in the apostolic spirit of Blessed James Alberione, recommending persevering in listening to people and readers.

The two paths of fraternity and integral ecology

The Pope underlines that it is precisely the readers who are “the true heritage” of a magazine like Familia Cristiana. He remembers that the peculiarity, from its origins, put into practice by the management, the newsroom and the journalists, was to nurture contact with the people. And this is “a link that is renewed even in the digital transformation that we are going through,” Francisco points out. He also cites one of the sermons of Saint James Alberione, founder of the Pauline Family, when he states “Introduce the cinema in the parishes and make subscriptions to the newspapers. The Catholic newspaper is like a visit from God in homes” (Prediction alle PastorelleBook VII, 1981, 318).

“This has always been the main editorial line of the Paulines: to be attentive to relationships as the key to communicative practice, and to “networks” as places of collaborative creation of meanings and contents; search for new forms of presence and action, linked not so much to the media as to culture and the new grammar of communication; and at the service of all the people of God, especially the men and women who inhabit the peripheries of today.”

This line is always valid and, of course, must be updated according to the great orientations of evangelization; Today, two paths open before us in particular: that of fraternity and that of integral ecology. These paths must be traveled, but the method remains the same: dialogue and listening, which allow relationships to be cultivated.

The relationship with the other is not reducible to a connection

Dialogue, adds the Pope, “is not reduced to an exchange of data or information, and the relationship with the other is not limited to a connection. And he adds jokingly: “Someone told me that the telephone book is the one that contains the most data has and the one with the most characters but without communication, curious!” And then he gets to the crux of the matter -reiterated on more than one occasion-, namely, that “communication is a broader exercise.

“Overcoming self-referentiality to look towards a broader horizon is essential at this time of change. In order to meet the interlocutors of his mission and get closer to them, the communicator must make a “one-way” trip, changing his attitude and mentality if necessary. This is the path that the Second Vatican Council showed us, and then Saint Paul VI, Saint John Paul II; but first, this is the example of the Apostle Paul, who by communicating the Gospel created relationships and made community.”

San Alberione: The importance of involving journalists and experts

The founder of the Pauline Family envisioned a magazine that would bring families a Christian vision of current affairs, of the great themes of the world and of the Church. Francis recalls it, as well as underlines the team spirit that has always encouraged the commitment of the priests and that of the management and the editorial staff, together.

In the course of the long history of the magazine, the religious brothers have been mainly concerned with the technical phase of printing, the sisters with distribution in homes, raising awareness in parishes has been entrusted to a more choral work. “But the collaboration was soon extended to journalists and experts in all fields,” says the Pope, quoting Alberione again:

Alberione already said to young priests in 1915: “Sow good ideas so that they bear fruit in good works: this is the work that matters. Religious ideas, social ideas, economic ideas, ideas of virtue, ideas of hygiene, etc. […]. When we know that an idea can do good, that a fact can make a newspaper interesting, it will be useful to communicate it: it is a talent that God gives: let us make it bear fruit” (Notes on Pastoral Theology, n. 340).

Avoid “small self-preservation groups”

The Pope goes on to describe this mechanism and urges us to act, looking forward, with our feet planted on the Gospel.

And being careful to look when there is any movement back to denounce it and say that this is not Christian. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews said, “We are not a people who go backwards” (cf. 10:39). Let us advance with the power of the Gospel, with the communicative power that creates community; let’s not go back to create self-preservation groups, which will end up turning our soul into a museum piece, be careful about this.

One more quote from the founder of the Pauline Family:

And let us conclude with a word from Fr. Alberione that summarizes his charismatic journey: “You cannot give greater wealth to this poor and proud world than Jesus Christ, he is the greatest wealth. Mary gave the world grace in Jesus Christ; she continues to offer it to the throughout the centuries. […] The world needs Jesus Christ, Way, Truth and Life. Mary gives it through the apostles and apostolates, whom she raises, forms, assists and crowns with fruit and glory in heaven “(Abundantes divitiae gratiae suae, 1953, p. 108).

The director: the link with the public, beyond business logic

“The bond with the public, very strong and authentically familiar, has always gone beyond the logic of the publishing business”, explains the director of Familia Cristiana, Father Stefano Stimamiglio, recalling an aspect that, according to him, had already been underlined by Francisco himself in the letter of good wishes received last December. There the Pope had thanked the commitment of the magazine which, “at a time when harshness is sometimes used as a criterion of comparison”, remains a friendly presence, “a newspaper of the people and for the people, attentive to give the floor to the weakest and most marginalized”. According to co-director Luciano Regolo, the Pope continued in the letter inviting the weekly “to serve the truth with kindness through good journalism that does not give space to media chatter and does not adhere to any other side than that of the Gospel, listening to all voices and embodying that docile meekness that is good for the heart”.

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