Pope Francis said on Monday that the two-year global consultation process leading to the Synod on Synodality is “a great opportunity” for Catholics to listen to one another.
Writing in his World Communications Day message, released on Jan. 24, the pope expressed concern that people were “losing the ability to listen,” both in the Church and wider public life.
“A synodal process has just been launched,” he wrote. “Let us pray that it will be a great opportunity to listen to one another.”
“Communion, in fact, is not the result of strategies and programs, but is built in mutual listening between brothers and sisters.”
Pope Francis formally invited the world’s Catholics last October to take part in a consultation process leading to the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2023.
In his new message, entitled “Listening with the ear of the heart,” the pope reflected on biblical passages illustrating the importance of listening.
“Among the five senses, the one favored by God seems to be hearing, perhaps because it is less invasive, more discreet than sight, and therefore leaves the human being more free,” he wrote.
“Listening corresponds to the humble style of God. It is the action that allows God to reveal himself as the One who, by speaking, creates man and woman in his image, and by listening recognizes them as his partners in dialogue.”
The pope lamented what he described as an absence of listening in public discourse.
“The lack of listening, which we experience so often in daily life, is unfortunately also evident in public life, where, instead of listening to each other, we often ‘talk past one another,’” he observed.
“This is a symptom of the fact that, rather than seeking the true and the good, consensus is sought; rather than listening, one pays attention to the audience. Good communication, instead, does not try to impress the public with a soundbite, with the aim of ridiculing the other person, but pays attention to the reasons of the other person and tries to grasp the complexity of reality.”
“It is sad when, even in the Church, ideological alignments are formed and listening disappears, leaving sterile opposition in its wake.”
The pope signed the message on Jan. 24, the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers and journalists.
He urged members of the media to develop their listening capacities.
“Communication does not take place if listening has not taken place, and there is no good journalism without the ability to listen,” he said.
“In order to provide solid, balanced, and complete information, it is necessary to listen for a long time. To recount an event or describe an experience in news reporting, it is essential to know how to listen, to be ready to change one’s mind, to modify one’s initial assumptions.”
The pope suggested that listening to society was more critical than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“So much previously accumulated mistrust towards ‘official information’ has also caused an ‘infodemic,’ within which the world of information is increasingly struggling to be credible and transparent,” he said.
He particularly encouraged journalists to tell the stories of migrants.
“Everyone would then be free to support the migration policies they deem most appropriate for their own country,” he wrote.
“But in any case, we would have before our eyes, not numbers, not dangerous invaders, but the faces and stories, gazes, expectations and sufferings of real men and women to listen to.”
Quoting the German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed by the Nazis in 1945, the pope underlined that there was also a great need for listening in the Church.
He said: “It is the most precious and life-giving gift we can offer each other. ‘Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by him who is himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the word of God.’”
World Communications Day, established by Pope Paul VI in 1967, will be celebrated this year on Sunday, May 29, the day that some countries will mark the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, transferred from the preceding Thursday.
The theme of this year’s commemoration, the 56th, is “Listen!”
Concluding his message, Pope Francis compared the Church to a choir.
“With the awareness that we participate in a communion that precedes and includes us, we can rediscover a symphonic Church, in which each person is able to sing with his or her own voice, welcoming the voices of others as a gift to manifest the harmony of the whole that the Holy Spirit composes,” he said.