Our mother’s womb, said Pope Francis, “is the first ‘school’ of communication, a place of listening and physical contact where we begin to familiarize ourselves with the outside world within a protected environment, with the reassuring sound of the mother’s heartbeat.”
Francis called the contact between mother and child an “encounter between two persons,” who are “so intimately related while still distinct from each other.” It is, he said, “an encounter so full of promise” and “our first experience of communication.”
The Pope shared these reflections in his message for World Communications Day, dated the 23rd of January. Coincidentally, his reflections on the relationship between mothers and their unborn children also came the day after the anniversary of the historic Supreme Court Decision Roe v. Wade, marked by the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.
Inspiring the Pope’s words was a biblical text, recounting the meeting between Mary and her cousin Elizabeth when the two women were both pregnant. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb,” the passage reads.
Francis said that the episode “shows us how communication is a dialogue intertwined with the language of the body.” He said that even before Elizabeth can say anything, the “first response to Mary’s greeting is given by the child, who leaps for joy in the womb of Elizabeth.” He said that the joy of encounter “is something we learn even before being born.”
This is “an experience which we all share, since each of us was born of a mother,” Francis said.
The Pope chose to frame this year’s message for the World Day of Communication within the context of the family, a recurring theme of his pontificate, especially in preparation for the Vatican Summit on Marriage and Family to be held this coming October.
In his message, Francis said that a “perfect family does not exist.” The family is the place “where we keep loving one another despite our limits and sins, thus becomes a school of forgiveness,” he said. “A child who has learned in the family to listen to others, to speak respectfully and to express his or her view without negating that of others, will be a force for dialogue and reconciliation in society,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.