Message to people of God
in occasion of CEPACS Golden Jubilee Assembly
Dr Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication of the Holy See
Holy Cross Cathedral, Lagos (NIGERIA), 19th November 2023 at 10.30
Dear brothers and sisters,
I’m really grateful to God to be here with you this Sunday.
It is a gift that will remain in my hearth.
Thank you very much for the invitation to share with all of you this vibrant moment.
I’m really grateful that we could celebrate together the Eucharist. The word itself, Eucharist comes from the ancient Greekεὐχαριστία, eucharistía that means “thanksgiving”, and is a “thanksgiving” to the Lord for all his gifts.
So we are here to thank God also for the “CEPACS Golden Jubilee”, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the Pan-African Bishops Committee on Communications (CEPACS), which was founded in 1973 by the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) for the Church in Africa, in collaboration with the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication.
CEPACS was and is meant to animate, coordinate, form and train media practitioners at all levels in the continent.
As we celebrate this important anniversary it is also interesting to remember what happened 10 years before the establishment of Cepcs.
Let us go back to the second Vatican council, when the first two documents were promulgated the same day. It was the 4th December 1963.
The two documents were the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium on the Sacred Liturgy and the Decree Inter Mirifica on social communication.
In his promulgation address, Pope Paul VI pointed out that this was not just a coincidence: “The Decree on the so-called instruments of social communication openly attests that the Church enjoys the capacity to connect the outer life with the interior, action with contemplation, the apostolate with prayer.”
This is the reason why today we are celebrating the Holy Mass and also the anniversary of Cepacs.
Communication, we all know it, is not just a matter of “media practitioners”. Communication is not only information. It is much more. It is the gift that God gave us, human beings created in His image, to be in relationships with one another, to build a community, and to weave communion among us. By celebrating the Eucharist, we discover the most profound value of communication. “Communication” and “communion” have the same root.
This fundamental vision of communication as a connection, as a relation, as a way toward communion, was also expressed by the pastoral instruction Communio et Progressio, which was written just a couple of years before the establishment of CEPACS.
Let me quote it: “At its most profound level, communication is the giving of self in love. Christ’s communication was, in fact, spirit and life. In the institution of the Holy Eucharist, Christ gave us the most perfect and most intimate form of communion between God and man possible in this life, and, out of this, the deepest possible unity between men” (Communio et Progressio, 11).
Therefore, we are here not only to celebrate a jubilee of CEPACS but also to search, all together, the way to move towards a more Christian style of communication. Communication mirrors the Church’s communion and can contribute to it. This Jubilee reminds us about this profound commitment.
I would like to compliment the ongoing efforts in communication at all levels, mostly through the flourishing of radio and TV stations wherever they operate in the Church, the Family of God, on the continent, abroad and online. But I would also like to invite each one of you to support all these efforts with your prayer and with your own commitment. There are many ways we can do it. Each one of us can contribute to making our communication at the service of communion. With this purpose 60 years ago, the Church has established the World’s Communications Day (Inter Mirifica n°18), which has a threefold purpose: to instruct all of us about our responsibilities in communication, to invite us to pray for this purpose and to allow all of us to contribute with our material gifts, with our gestures, with our talents.
Communication is truly God’s gift that enables us to put in common what we bear in our hearts. With his last Messages for World Communications Day, Pope Francis has invited us to focus on our hearts: listen with the ear of the heart, speak with the heart were the titles in the previous two years. Also, for the next WCD (the 58th), in 2024, the theme chosen by Pope Francis is linked to the heart: “Artificial intelligence and wisdom of the heart: for a fully human communication”.
A fully human communication needs care! An African proverb, quoted in the African Synodal document, says, “Crops are to be cultivated, whereas weeds grow on their own.” The synodal way of being Church needs to be cultivated. Our communications needs to be cultivated in order to be really at the service of the Church, Family of God. This is also what we are encouraged to do by the gospel of today.
Therefore, I encourage you to support each other and expand awareness for the care of this gift that God gave to us to build relationships. Together, we can witness our being One, our being “members of one another”. Together, through the radio, through the web, and through social media, we can build a system with the mission of feeding the word of truth, based on the experience of Pentecost interwoven with the spirit of sharing instead of the one of Babel. Let us engage our youth in our communications system. Let the message travel from person to person as something beautiful because it is true. Beautiful because it is personally experienced. Beautiful because it tells of the beauty of God and of humankind. Let us invent new ways of peer-to-peer communication that is based on communion instead of division: communion among us, communion of the People of God, communion of the Family of God in Africa!
May God bless each one of us in our shared journey.