The media help communication, said Pope Francis, “when they enable people to share their stories, to stay in contact with distant friends, to thank others or to seek their forgiveness, and to open the door to new encounters.”
The context for these reflections was Pope Francis’s message for World Communications Day, dated January 23. Catholics celebrate the feast of Saint Francis de Sales—the patron saint of journalists—every year on January 24.
Francis said that “new possibilities” offered by social media must be accompanied by daily growth “in our awareness of the vital importance of encountering others,” in order to “employ technology wisely, rather than letting ourselves be dominated by it.”
The Pope called on parents as “the primary educators” to train their children in the responsible use of the media, but he also noted that they should not be left alone in this effort. “The Christian community,” he said, “is called to help them in teaching children how to live in a media environment in a way consonant with the dignity of the human person and service of the common good.”
While recognizing the value of the media, the Pope also suggested that media can be a two-edged sword. “Today, the modern media, which are an essential part of life for young people in particular, can be both a help and a hindrance to communication in and between families,” he said.
“The media can be a hindrance,” he elaborated, “if they become a way to avoid listening to others, to evade physical contact, to fill up every moment of silence and rest, so that we forget that silence is an integral element of communication.”
The media should facilitate–not replace–communication, the Pope suggested. “The great challenge facing us today,” he said, “is to learn once again how to talk to one another, not simply how to generate and consume information.”
“Information is important, but it is not enough,” Pope Francis continued. “All too often things get simplified, different positions and viewpoints are pitted against one another, and people are invited to take sides, rather than to see things as a whole.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.