My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
On May 22, 2014, the Diocese of Brooklyn will celebrate World Communications Day. We are delighted that His Excellency, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, President of the Pontifical Council on Social Communications, will receive our St. Francis de Sales Distinguished Communicator Award. In addition, he will be our honored speaker at this celebration.
Pope Francis, in his message for the 48th Annual World Communications Day, established the theme “Communications at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter.” The Holy Father reminds us that the world of communications can either help us expand our knowledge or lose our bearings. The desire for digital connectivity can have the effect of isolating us from our neighbors and those closest to us. We should not overlook the fact that those, who for whatever reason lack the access to social media, run the risk of being left behind.
In this year’s message, the Pope reminds us that we should not reject social media, whether that be Facebook or Twitter or any of the number of sites available today, but rather we should recognize that it has an appropriate place in our lives. For instance, I should never neglect the person I might be out to dinner with in order to engage my followers on Twitter or my friends on Facebook. Social media should be at the service of encounter, particularly in light of the Gospel. In other words, it enables us to, on one hand, proclaim the Gospel in the various ministeries in the life of the Church. We in turn must listen to what the world is saying to us.
My sense is that young people very much understand the nature of this dialect. They migrate away from social networking sites that seem to be based on consumption and manipulation, where they are treated as consumers. We who are late users can learn from the early users, who are very resistant to being made into objects or simply, consumers.
We Christians need to be vigilant not to treat others as consumers. In other words, we should not be bombarding people with religious messages, but rather engage in a dialogue about our common humanity and experience.
St. Francis de Sales can be a symbol for you and for me in this enterprise. He was the Bishop of Geneva during the Protestant Reformation. In a few short years after his episcopacy, the Catholic Church would entirely disappear from that city. What Francis sought to do was to use the means of communications available to him at that time to engage Protestant Reformers in a conversation about the nature of Christ, the Sacraments, and their life in the Church. He made use of the newly invented printing press and pamphlets to start this discussion.
My hope is that the Diocese continually seeks to make use of modern means of communication to engage all of the people who live in Brooklyn and Queens in this conversation about what God does for us each day. We are perfectly situated to make use of these modern means of communications because of the diversity that is found throughout the Diocese. Frankly, there is much that divides us. We have churchgoers who are from Europe and Asia, Latin America and Africa. Some are rich, others are poor. As we put out into the deep, let us all strive to make use of the various means of communications to bridge the divide.
Let me invite you to celebrate World Communications Day with us this year, as we welcome Arhcbishop Celli, and listen to his wise counsel on how we all may better use communications to further the Gospel in our modern times.
Editor’s Note: To register for the World Communications Day event and for more information, please log on to www.desalesmedia.org/wcd2014. Space is limited.