In his message for World Communications Day, released Jan. 24 – the feast day of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists, and just in time for Catholic Press Month – Pope Francis speaks primarily of the need to listen.
He writes, “Listening is therefore the first indispensable ingredient of dialogue and good communication. Communication does not take place if listening has not taken place, and there is no good journalism without the ability to listen. In order to provide solid, balanced, and complete information, it is necessary to listen for a long time.”
If I had to summarize the pope’s worldview in just one word, I’d choose “encounter.” He is a man who deeply believes in the importance of dialogue, of communication and relationships. All of these, of course, are just facets of agape, the Greek word meaning “unconditional love,” which is also the biblical word for God’s covenant with man. What the pope is doing is urging us to keep God’s commandment and love one another as God has loved us.
“Fundamentally, listening is a dimension of love,” the pope writes.
As journalists, we are taught to seek truth, and although much interest in objectivity has been lost in secular journalism in the past decade, we in the Catholic press continue to practice it. Objectivity asks that we seek to understand the complexity of things, that we listen to others, tell their stories, grasp the significance of their experiences and allow ourselves to be “surprised by truth,” as the pope says.
I’ll be the first to admit: Listening is a difficult task. It requires much patience – “a martyrdom of patience,” the pope writes, quoting the late Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, a Vatican diplomat, on the topic of difficult negotiations. I would posit that in these deeply divided times, the need to listen is essential for all of us if we are ever to unite as sisters and brothers, as children of God, as God intends.