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Pope Francis to the media: let yourselves be inspired by mercy

On January 22nd was presented Pope Francis’ message for the 50th World Communications Day (May 8 2016) on the theme: “Communication and Mercy: a fruitful encounter.” The text contains a twofold appeal to institutional leaders and to the pastors of the Church. To the former the Pope asks: “to remain especially attentive to the way they speak of those who think or act differently or those who may have made mistakes.” To the latter: “to overcome the mindset that neatly separates sinners from the righteous.”

Mercy is the only way leading to fair communication. There is no other option. This is true for “the pastors of the Church”, and for those “with institutional and political responsibility, and those charged with forming public opinion.” In the message for the 50th World Communications Day that the Church will celebrate next May 8, Pope Francis conveys his reflections on how “communications and mercy” can establish “a fruitful encounter.” He illustrates his thoughts in the opening remarks of the text, calling upon “all people of good will” to “rediscover the power of mercy to heal wounded relationships and to restore peace and harmony to families and communities.”

Mercy is able to create a new kind of speech and dialogue.”

Then, somewhat unexpectedly, Francis quotes from Shakespeare, in the year marking 400 years since his death. “The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed: it blesseth him that gives and him that takes” (The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I).

The language of politics. Thus the “power” of mercy involves everyone: “families”, “communities”, “peoples”… and, above of all, those with institutional responsibilities. That’s why, for Francis,

“Our political and diplomatic language would do well to be inspired by mercy, which never loses hope.

The Pope asks “those with institutional and political responsibility, and those charged with forming public opinion, to remain especially attentive to the way they speak of those who think or act differently or those who may have made mistakes.” In fact, he observes in the message, “it is easy to yield to the temptation to exploit such situations to stoke the flames of mistrust, fear and hatred.” Instead “courage is needed to guide people towards processes of reconciliation. It is precisely such positive and creative boldness which offers real solutions to ancient conflicts and the opportunity to build lasting peace.”

The words of the pastors. Mercy must find concrete application also in ecclesial communication. The Pope writes: “How I wish that our own way of communicating, as well as our service as pastors of the Church, may never suggest a prideful and triumphant superiority over an enemy, or demean those whom the world considers lost and easily discarded. Mercy can help mitigate life’s troubles and offer warmth to those who have known only the coldness of judgment.” For this reason, he said,

“May our way of communicating help to overcome the mindset that neatly separates sinners from the righteous.

We can and we must judge situations of sin – such as violence, corruption, exploitation – but we may not judge individuals, since only God can see into the depths of their hearts.” For Francis, “Only words spoken with love and accompanied by meekness and mercy can touch our sinful hearts. Harsh and moralistic words and actions risk further alienating those whom we wish to lead to conversion and freedom, reinforcing their sense of rejection and defensiveness.”

Closeness and knowing how to listen. “The encounter between communication and mercy – the Pope points out – will be fruitful to the degree that it generates a closeness which cares, comforts, heals, accompanies and celebrates. In a broken, fragmented and polarized world, to communicate with mercy means to help create a healthy, free and fraternal closeness between the children of God and all our brothers and sisters in the one human family.” That’s why it’s very important to be able to listen. “Listening – Bergolio underlines – allows us to get things right, and not simply to be passive onlookers, users or consumers.

Listening also means being able to share questions and doubts, to journey side by side, to banish all claims to absolute power and to put our abilities and gifts at the service of the common good.”

“Listening means paying attention, wanting to understand, to value, to respect and to ponder what the other person says.” Listening: “involves a sort of martyrdom”, and “knowing how to listen is an immense grace, it is a gift which we need to ask for and then make every effort to practice.” Closeness and knowing how to listen: to enable a “fruitful encounter” between “communication and mercy.”

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