Media hacks’ cheat sheet. What the pope wants you to know in bite-sized bits

VATICAN CITY — What’s the recipe for successful communication?

Pope Francis spelled it out in his first World Communications Day message released yesterday, and on other occasions as well.

For today’s feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of the Catholic press and journalists, here’s a sampling of some of his simple tips:

  • Without losing your bearings, expand your knowledge. Don’t barricade yourselves “behind sources of information, which only confirm (your) own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests.”

A couple embrace during the World Meeting of Families in Milan June 2012. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

  • Don’t isolate yourselves from the people around you.
  • “We need to love and be loved” so help your digital connections “grow into true encounters.” Make it a network “not of wires but of people.”
  • Be deliberate, calm. Take the time to be silent and listen. Be patient with people “who are different” as you try to understand them.


    Parents listening to their teenage daughter during dinner. (CNS photo illustration/Sid Hastings) (2011)

  • Don’t just tolerate, be genuinely attentive and accept the other — it will help them to express themselves more fully.
  • “Learn to look at the world with different eyes and come to appreciate the richness of human experience” seen in different cultures and traditions.
  • Use the Internet, this “gift from God,” to grow closer to others, inspire solidarity, improve human dignity.
  • Use the power of media and communication to turn us into neighbors.
  • Dangers to avoid: information overload and manipulative messages that might “condition our responses that we fail to see our real neighbor.”
  • Don’t let media strategies strangle the need to “ensure beauty, goodness and truth in communication.”

A visitor takes photos of ancient fragments of the New Testament at a Vatican exhibit in 2012. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

  • Impartiality in the media? The pope says it’s just a show. Strive instead to be a true point of reference for people, which means going out into the mix as you are with tenderness. “Personal engagement is the basis of the trustworthiness of a communicator.”
  • “Boldly become citizens of the digital world” without overlooking those who lack access and might be left behind.
  • Risk getting “bruised” by going out “to the streets” and digital highways where people are looking for healing, meaning and hope.
Priest runs in 100-meter relay race on main road leading to St. Peter's Square at Vatican

A priest runs a 100-meter relay race near St. Peter’s Square Oct. 20, 2013. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

  • Keep all doors online open “so that people, whatever their situation in life, can enter and so that the Gospel can go out to everyone.”
  • Don’t bombard people with religious messages. Be willing to be available, patiently and respectfully hearing people’s questions and doubts “as they advance in their search for the truth” and meaning in life.
  • Dialogue requires we “be people of depth, attentive to what is happening around us and spiritually alert.”
  • Learn to believe “that the ‘other’ has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective.” Don’t renounce your ideas and traditions, just recognize you’re not the only one who might be right.

Sr. Leo Therese, a member of the Missionaries of Charity, greets families at a refugee camp in Basagaon, India, in 2012. (CNS photo/Anto Akkara)

  • “Let our communication be a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts” without resorting to cheap tricks and “special effects.”
  • See the communication revolution underway as a “great and thrilling challenge” to be faced with “fresh energy and imagination.”
Pope Francis greets baby at Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Rome

Pope Francis greets a baby during a visit to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Rome Jan. 19, 2014. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

And don’t forget Pope Francis’ trademark tip for how best to communicate the Gospel. It’s some wisdom he got from his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi:

Do you know what Francis once said to his brothers? He said: “Always preach the Gospel and if necessary use words!” But how? Is it possible to preach the Gospel without words? Yes! By your witness! First comes witness, then come words!

Pope Francis to young people in Assisi Oct. 4, 2013

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3 Responses to Media hacks’ cheat sheet. What the pope wants you to know in bite-sized bits

  1. MORAA O. says:

    Beautiful nuggets,

  2. Reblogged this on Deacon Chuck Thompson and commented:
    Pope Francis at World Communications Day yesterday…

  3. Amen. I pray that everyone will follow these pieces of advice. The internet can be a nasty place. Let’s make it better.

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