Homily: 56th World Communications Day
National Directorate of Social Communications, CSN, Abuja
By Very Rev Fr. (Dr) Michael Nsikak Umoh
Sunday 29 May, 2022
- Through the Bishop Chairman for Social Communications, Most Rev. David Ajang, the Bishop of Lafia Diocese, I greet you dear friends in the name of the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Most Rev. Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, the Archbishop of Owerri Archdiocese who is also the Apostolic Administrator of Umuahia and Ahiara dioceses. Happy Sunday to you!
- Today is World Communications Day. It has been a tradition established by Pope Paul VI since 1967 to annually celebrate the Sunday before Pentecost as World Communications Day by reflecting on the opportunities and challenges that the media afford the Church to communicate the gospel of Christ, and how this technology impact on society and on the life of the people.
- In view of this, each year, for the 56th time now, the reigning Pope always proposes a theme on media for reflection, and also releases a special message based on the chosen theme for the year. For this year’s World Communications Day, Pope Francis proposes the theme “LISTEN”, urging all Catholics and the whole of humanity to cultivate the habit of listening with the ear of the heart.
- The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has taken this initiative a step further by expanding the universal one-day celebration of the media to a one-week celebration. Thus, they came up with the Communications Week (ComWEEK) programme; the maiden edition is concluding today. Through this initiative, the Bishops of Nigeria are consciously calling for greater awareness to the power of the media for evangelisation and for good democratic citizenship. They directed that this media literacy programme be celebrated in all parishes all over Nigeria. We are quite aware that the beginnings are not usually easy, but pray that this humble beginning, like the mustard seed, watered by the power of the Holy Spirit, will flourish to bring freshness and newness upon our Church and society at large. Amen.
- We thank all our Communications Directors who have been able to translate and animate this effort in their diocese/congregation and all those priests and pastoral agents who have been able to key into it. We thank all those who have contributed in one way or the other towards the planning and successful implementation of this maiden edition. May God reward you all.
- In the daily programme prepared for the ComWEEK celebration, the theme for today, being Day 8, is “Listening brings unity”. This is informed by the fact that unity is only possible through communication, while also, communication is not possible without listening, therefore listening is an important element in the process of unity. But more than mere physical listening, Pope Francis admonishes that when we listen to one another with the ear of the heart, we are able to empathise, to show love and to achieve lasting unity. He says that “listening is a dimension of love,” and that “freely giving some of our own time to listen to people is the first act of charity.” Listening is the first indispensable ingredient for true dialogue and authentic communication which is founded on the respect for the dignity of the human person and an awareness of their inalienable right to speak and to be heard. The disunity in our world, our communities, our families and our homes can be traced largely to our failure to listen to one another. Listening is a virtue we all need to cultivate in our daily interactions.
- Furthermore, the Pope reminds us that listening is the foundation of communication in the Church, thus there can be no Church without communication. The document on the Church and Internet issued in 2002 by the Pontifical Council for Social Communication #3 underscores this fact in the following words:
God continues to communicate with humanity through the Church, the bearer and custodian of his revelation, to whose living teaching office alone he has entrusted the task of authentically interpreting his word. Moreover, the Church herself is a communio, a communion of persons and eucharistic communities arising from and mirroring the communion of the Trinity; communication therefore is of the essence of the Church.
- The world needs to learn to listen to the Church because the teachings of Christ have never failed in pointing the world to peace and progress; rather, the problem is that the world has often failed to give Jesus a chance. The world is in the mess we are because it fails to listen to Jesus who indeed is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). The Pope explains, “human beings tend to flee the relationship, to turn their back and “close their ears” so they do not have to listen. Unfortunately for humanity, the refusal to listen often ends up turning into aggression towards the other, as happened to the mob with the deacon Stephen who, covering their ears, all turned on him at once (cf. Acts 7:57).
- If the killers of Deborah Samuel in Sokoto had listened to Jesus instead of false voices, they would have shown her love and mercy rather than the barbaric path they chose.
- If the many kidnappers and killers, perpetrators of different atrocities in Nigeria listen to the voice of Jesus, they would surely act otherwise.
- If Nigerian politicians listen to the voice of Jesus, they would work to bring joy and succor to the millions of Nigerians instead of the pains and sufferings they inflict by their cruel and dishonest acts.
- If couples listen to each other, there will be healing to many psychological and emotional pains that many people are going through today in their marriage.
- If brothers and sisters are able to listen to one another, there will be greater peace and progress in our families today.
- Listening to Jesus and acting in his ways always leads to mercy. Mercy is when the heart is applied to the misery of the human condition. When mercy is applied to human misery, the result is healing and restoration; the result is joy and peace.
- Pope Francis says “The ability to listen to society is more valuable than ever in this time wounded by the long pandemic. We need to lend an ear and listen profoundly, especially to the social unease heightened by the downturn or cessation of many economic activities.” Listening is not just physical, it is spiritual, emotional, social, psychological; it is listening with the ear of the heart, it is listening with mercy. It is listening without being judgmental, listening with respect for the dignity of the human person.
- Moreover, on the quality of our listening, Pope Francis observes that in reality, in many interactions where we seem to be listening, we do not communicate at all. We are simply waiting for the other person to finish speaking in order to impose our point of view. He described this as a duologue: a monologue in two voices rather than a dialogue. In true communication, however, the “I” and the “you” are both “moving out”, reaching out to each other. True dialogue is the essence of the Synod on Synodality. It is intersubjective, participatory, communal, reciprocal, interactive, and only possible in an environment of respect and humility. It is for this reason that the Holy Father affirms that “Communion is not the result of strategies and programmes, but is built in mutual listening between brothers and sisters.” That is Synodality!
- There is a great need to listen to and to hear one another in the Church. It is the most precious and life-giving gift we can offer each other. The first service we owe to others in communion consists in listening.
For all the reasons shared so far, both for the well-being of the human person in the Church and in the general society, Media literacy is highly vital in today’s age. At the level of the Church, media literacy equips pastoral agents to match the ills and negativity replete on the social media space with the Gospel message. On the general note, Media literacy is important for building listening skills at all levels of society and for promoting unity, development and peace. It helps build citizens in a democracy and guides political leaders to know how best to relate with the people, to be able to listen to their demands and work towards a better society for all. The ComWEEK initiative is focused on achieving media literacy among both Catholics and non-Catholics.
Finally, dear friends, in the name of our Bishops, I urge that we all rise and continue to support ComWEEK because ComWEEK is for Synodality, for Ability, for Community, for Compatibility, for Connectivity, for Communality, for Reciprocity, for Effectivity and for Democracy. Let us all embrace and continue to celebrate the spirit of ComWEEK.
Through ComWEEK may God bless our efforts to grow media literacy for discipleship. Amen.