By Fr. Roy Cimagala
I WAS happy to learn that there are annual conferences for Church communication personnel organized by a pontifical university in Rome. My immediate wish is for this kind of conferences to be replicated in our dioceses.
Aside from the massive regular information that has to be given, the increasing number of hot issues the Church has to grapple with now makes the task of Church communication personnel very challenging.
This year’s theme, for example, already evokes an intriguing character: “Church communication and the culture of controversy.” Yes, the Church officials simply have to know how to navigate in our complicated environment today.
With her stature and historical standing, it’s pitiable to see the Church in the different levels of her structure fumbling miserably in this aspect of communication. She’s like an aging mother needing precious help from her children.
Already the technical requirements are daunting. Besides matters of language and style, officials, to be effective, have to do continuing research and updating, enrich their sense of perspective and timing, master the fast-developing technologies.
They have to be quick in identifying and resolving issues. Thus, they should always be in the lookout, energetic in gathering relevant data, open to everyone and all parties involved in a given question.
I’m impressed, for example, at how some American newspapers do their stuff. There’s thoroughness in their data, balance and good manners in the treatment of issues. Straight news is clearly distinguished from editorial and opinion items.
Professionalism is all over. A wide network of competent writers gives their readers great depth and scope of the issues. Though they have a specific perspective, there’s also openness and serious but polite discussion of conflicting views.
These qualities and ideals are difficult to build. They don’t come overnight and they require tremendous resources. But they just have to be pursued day in and day out, using whatever means we have.
To top it all, it has to be clear that Church communication assumes the spiritual and supernatural character proper to the Church. It just cannot be a bureaucratic process of making and transmitting statements.
It cannot be treated as business-and-politics reporting. It is an integral part of the Church’s ministry of evangelization. It has to be nothing less than the living water spoken of in the Gospel that nourishes souls and peoples, with traces of divine inspiration marking it.
The skill to combine the divine and the human elements, the sacred and the mundane, the absolute and the relative, the eternal and the temporal, should be developed. It may not be a sacrament, but it has to reflect the Church’s true nature and serve her authentic goal.
Therefore, it has to be a product of prayer, a manifestation of one’s sincere effort at sanctifying his work, himself and others. This obviously is no guarantee that there’d be no imperfections and errors, but it will leave one’s work exuding a certain aura perceptible to the soul’s finer faculties.
Besides, those involved in Church communication should have a good feel of what the Church is, what she needs at the moment, what she desires to achieve, etc. They should strive to be able to read the signs of the times.
It is this “sentire cum Ecclesia” (to feel with the Church) that can spawn a continuous flow of ideas and initiatives. It can also determine the timing and the manner in which issues are presented and discussed.
For this, it is necessary that those involved, while individually responsible and competent, should be adept in the ways of collegiality and teamwork, dialogue and consultation, to somehow guarantee a balanced writing worthy of being a Church communication.
There has to be a vital link with the bishop and ultimately with the Pope, so that the character of communion proper to the Church can be lived. With our advances in information technology, this vital linking could be better facilitated.
With these dispositions, it is hoped that what come out truly irrigate people’s minds and hearts, clarifying, encouraging, removing us from spiritual dead ends, and stimulating us to pursue the genuine purpose of our life.