Dr. Paolo Ruffini, Prefect, Discastery of Social Communications, Vatican has tasked members of the Pan African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS) to set up structures for the Church in Africa, steer clear of mistakes of the past to spread God’s words effectively while also promoting a synodal Church. He gave this charge while delivering the keynote address at the 50th anniversary celebration of CEPACS held recently at Lumen Christi Television network, Lagos Nigeria. The Vatican Prefect said, “Africa is full of live! But this abundance of life also needs a skeleton, a structure, in order to move effectively.”

He described the features of the structure; “This structure should not be “feudal”, should not be “colonial”. Please, do not repeat the same mistakes of the old continent! “The Church in Africa needs structures rooted in the Gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles. “The Church must remain alive and dynamic to respond effectively to its divine mission of evangelisation and communication,” as it is well written in the CEPACS’ statues. “The structures should always be at the service of the life, at the service of the mission of the Church in our time.”

He urged members of CEPACS to utilise the anniversary event as a starting point of a revival and effective revitalisation for communication reorganisation at all levels of a continent whose Catholic communities are delivering so many hopes through their youth and dynamism. “Memory-making is always healthy. It makes us look inside our history to find there not only our roots, but also our future. The good things to be grateful for and the mistakes to be corrected.

“We need to commemorate in order to remember a history that is our own, that belongs to us, but it is also bigger than us, and it transcends us. Nothing begins and nothing will end with us. Only by keeping the past alive can we build a future that is not founded on sand. Our history, our stories, are our foundations. All of us – looking back – must ask ourselves: What is the story we tell and have told? Does it still speak of the Kingdom of God? “Where are we in our journey? How far have we travelled? And toward where? “We are celebrating this Jubilee “towards promoting a synodal church in Africa through Social Communications.”

We have embarked in this journey to witness that another way of being together is possible. “To always value, as people of God united by baptism, what unites us and never what divides us. “To understand that the co-responsibility to which everyone is called-in the diversity of charisms and ministries-is a service and not a power. “To rediscover, within the Church-Family of God, the importance of each person; and especially of the communion that makes us one, members of one another. “To be a welcoming Church for all. Everyone, no one excluded.” The Prefect of the Discastery of Social Communications noted that the secret of communication is not technique but love.

Identifying charity as the only one rule that describes the constitutively synodal Church, he stated that communication is first and foremost a mutual gift of ourselves, a gift that comes from the relationship we establish with the other. “If we look at the Latin root of the word “communication,” we can see that it combines two other words: cum, together, and munus, gift. If we go back to the early Christians, we rediscover that this was their first source of communication. They were recognised by love. Love and compassion were their universal language. “The Word of God is by his nature word, dialogue and communication. “There was no social network at that time. No computers. No internet. No television. No radio and no printed media.

But there were disciples, the first communicators, the first witnesses. “Evangelisation has always been composed by content (the Gospel) and a witness who communicates the message not only with words, but with his body, his way of life, with the relationships he builds. “Jesus wants evangelisers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence,” as Pope Francis wrote in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (no. 259). “The first “means of communication” of the Gospel is thus our life, our whole life, transfigured by communion with God and communion with one another. Dr. Ruffini stressed that to spread the Christian message it is not enough to use the media, it is also necessary to integrate that message into the “new culture” created by modern communications.”

According to him, there is no mission without communion; and there is no communion without communication. The Vatican helmsman of Social Communications advocated the need to care for communication, that is at the service of a wise stewardship and leadership, with transparency and accountability. He said, “We need each other to journey and grow together in this regard: diocesan, national, regional, continental and universal levels. “We are here to acknowledge, all together, that investment in communication is not something that comes at the end of all other concerns. It is often the first field and form of charity. “We need to establish the communication needs to better “journey together”, to build a synodal Church. “We all share the responsibility for the Catholic communication.

We need to connect people who are willing to contribute with their skills and talents, with their resources and prayers. Dr. Ruffini tasked CEPACS on an urgent need for formation deeply rooted in communication for communion.” He added, “We need young professionals who are also rooted in faith. A current educational urgency is to create innovative processes that help young people to grow in discernment and critical thinking and learn to work as a team, possibly in “learning by doing” experiences. Our experience with some pilot projects at the Dicastery confirms us in this belief: if you give young people trust, they will give you their talents and commitment.”

On Artificial Intelligence, he had this to say: “We are the ones who invented it. And we are the ones who have to guide it. With our heart, which makes our intelligence unique, because it is based not only on our intellect, on our ability to connect knowledge, but also on our ability to love.” He challenged the Catholic Communicators to negotiate the algorithm, with their hearts, and discern between a soulless compilation of data and a storytelling with soul. “The heart tells us that there will always be things that technology cannot replace. Like freedom. Like the miracle of the encounter between people. Like the surprise of the unexpected. The conversion. The forgiveness. The gratuitous love that is not based on strength or on self-assertion, but on the supreme fragility of feeling unfulfilled, on the need to give and to give yourself. “

This requires negotiating and achieving transparency of algorithms, and interoperability of platforms, programming artificial intelligence to serve humans. “We can accept being bought and sold, profiled and marketed; or we can seek another rule of the game.” On a final note, the Vatican Prefect remarked that Artificial Intelligence cannot and should not replace personal responsibility, even though it can support decision-making and the ability to connect knowledge and people.

-www.catholicherald.org.ng