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May 27, 2019


A reflection on the 2019 World Communications Day Message of Pope Francis

Today (Sunday, 2 June, 2019)  is World Day of Communications. The attention of the Holy Father is focused on the importance of human communications and its essence of building effective human relationship and community. That is perhaps the reason why Pope Francis titled his message for this year thus: “We are members one of another.” (Eph 4,25). From Social network communities to the human community.” Pope Francis recognizes that there are two essential desires every human being, tries one way or the other, to fulfill in life. The first is the desire to be- in- relationship with others. The second is the   desire not to be left alone or be isolated from others. Communication is the basic human tool that helps us to connect to others and fulfill those essential desires of man. Communication, which is understood as a process of interaction by using messages to generate meaning, is basically an activity and exchange   that is dynamic, ongoing, ever changing, and continuous. It has no end.


Everyday people communicate to each other. Volumes of words and information are disseminated directly or indirectly through conversations and by phone calls. As simple as it may seem, the motive for communication is often not thought about and very often taken for granted. Understanding the motive for communication is helpful in building relationship and a human community of love and friendship.

Firstly, we communicate to know ourselves and make ourselves known to others. 

Secondly, we communicate to ask for help from others. No man is an island. As the philosopher Gabriel Marcel puts it beautifully, “Man is a being- with- others.” 

Thirdly, we communicate to convey information and direction. For instance we talk to a Mechanic to explain the problems with our car, the doctor to describe our symptoms of pain, the waitress to place our order and the priest to counsel us. Oftentimes, information is conveyed inaccurately, in a misleading way, or not at all. When we provide information, we have the responsibility to be clear and accurate.

Fourthly, we communicate to find relief. Many of us have experiences and feelings that have become distorted from not being spoken and explored in the presence of a listener.

Fifthly, we communicate to voice support, encouragement and love. We need to communicate not only to satisfy our needs but also to fulfill the needs of others.

Sixthly, we communicate in order to connect to others. At no other time in history has it been so evident that people want to talk to one another. Technological means of “talking” have exploded in popularity. Most people talk many times a day on their cell phones. Individuals Twit, text message, blog, go to chat rooms, e-mail, and log on to Facebook, LinkedIn, or MySpace in a seemingly insatiable need to connect and communicate. Communication is an essential part of connecting and of forming community. Talking to connect certainly is not restricted to sharing troubles. We share stories of all kinds: golf stories, fish stories, tall tales, personal experiences, family happenings, our successes and failures and those of others.  The truth is that we are social beings and we communicate to socialize.  Nobody wants to be excluded from reality and from others. Exclusion from social contact has been an age-old method of punishment. We need social contact not only for pleasure and sanity but also for building a vibrant human community.



We live in an era of internet and many social networks have been creatively developed not only to make communications easier but strengthen human relationship and human community. The question remains: Is the use of the net and social networks today promoting to build human relationship and community or helping to destroy it?

For Pope Francis, the net is indeed a veritable resource of our time. Through it, we are able to connect to people more easily especially those we probably lost their contacts many years ago. We are able to build new friends through our social networks. The internet and social network help us to better connect, rediscover, and assist one another.  They represent an extraordinary possibility of access to knowledge. However, not underestimating the importance of creating social network communities, human communication is still the best alternative to building an ideal relationship and human community.  There are several reasons why the social network can never be an alternative to human community.

Firstly, within the social network itself, there is not a strong bond as compared to natural human bonds such as the ones that exist within a family, between brothers and sisters and between a husband and a wife.  Social network groups are merely groups of individuals who recognize one another only through common interests or concerns characterized by weak bonds.

Secondly, in the social web, the identity of a group is too often based on opposition between the persons within and those outside of the group. A group of network of individuals can define themselves with what divides them rather than what should unite them. This very often gives rise to suspicion and to the venting of every kind of prejudice (ethnic, sexual, religious and others).

Thirdly, in social network, there is the tendency to encourage groups that exclude diversity, that even in the digital environment nourish unbridled individualism which sometimes ends up fomenting spirals of hatred. In this way, what ought to be a window on the world becomes a showcase for exhibiting personal narcissism.

Fourthly, there are some social networks that entrap people especially the youths; bringing about self-isolation. In the words of Pope Francis, “young people are the ones most exposed to the illusion that the social web can completely satisfy them on a relational level. There is the dangerous phenomenon of young people becoming “social hermits” who risk alienating themselves completely from society. This dramatic situation reveals a serious rupture in the relational fabric of society, one that ought not to be ignored.

Fifthly, the social networks, oftentimes lend themselves to the manipulation of personal data, aimed at obtaining political or economic advantages, without due respect for the person and his or her rights. Statistics show that among young people one in four is involved in episodes of cyberbullying and other internet crimes.

Sixthly, social networks in many ways have proven to be one of the areas most exposed to fake news, disinformation and to the conscious and targeted distortion of facts and interpersonal relationships, which are often used to discredit people.


Despite the fact that communications have been made so easy today, Pope Francis understands that our society is yearning for a better human community where honesty and trust and truth must prevail. Ours is a society where there is so much information yet the basic human communication is lacking.  It is within this context that the essence of Communication must be linked to building relationship and human community. For the Church “Human Communication is meant to help build relationships, and fashion a new language which permits people to know themselves better and understand one another more easily. By this people are led to mutual understanding and shared ambition, and this in turn inclines them to justice and peace to good will and active charity, to mutual help, to love and, in the end, to communion. The tools of communication provide some of the most effective means for the cultivation of that charity among people, which is at once the cause, and expression of fellowship.” (Communio et Pregresso NO: 23)


 The main question therefore remains:   How can we build a better human community, using the experience of our time. Community building is understood here to mean the building of a network of relationships between individual, organizations and institutions (which is geared towards having a common vision or working collaboratively). It also means effecting a positive change within a given community (solving problems within a community and overcoming challenges together). A true human community is one that pursues common objectives and is made stronger, through cohesiveness and supportiveness, as well as animated by feelings of trust. Our human community must be one that opens the way for dialogue, for encounter, for “smiles” and expressions of tenderness... It is a community that does not entrap, but liberates, protects a communion of people who are free. For Pope Francis, the church ought to be the ideal place where human community is well expressed on the basis of Christian principles. In his own very words: “The Church herself is a network woven together by Eucharistic communion, where unity is based not on “likes”, but on the truth, on the “Amen”, by which each one clings to the Body of Christ, and welcomes others.”  We must begin to ask the question: How supportive and cohesive is our family, our church and the various organizations and institutions that we belong?



For Pope Francis, building a human community is a responsibility for all. A human community can be built with four essential ingredients: solidarity, mutual listening and dialogue; as well as the responsible use of language. 





To build such human communities, Journalists and Media practitioners have greater responsibilities on their shoulders. They must know that every communication they make must carry their identity. Their communications identity begins with the realization that they have a social responsibility over what they say and how they say it; what they write and how they write it; what they report and how they report. They must report the facts based on truth. They must be balanced in their reportage.  They must understand that every communication directly or indirectly affects the other person, as well the society in which they are a part.

Secondly, Journalists and media practitioners must learn to put away falsehood and promote nothing but the truth. In the words of Pope Francis, “the duty to guard the truth springs from the need not to belie the mutual relationship of communion. Truth is revealed in communion. Lies, on the other hand, are a selfish refusal to recognize that we are members of one body; they are a refusal to give ourselves to others, thus losing the only way to find ourselves.”

Thirdly, the ethical principles in which Journalists and Media practitioners operate above everything must be based on communion and on “otherness.” Such Christian principle allows them in carrying out their professional duties, to learn to recognize everyone as members of the one body whose head is Christ. It will help them not to see people as potential competitors, but to consider everyone as persons and treat them with dignity and respect. According to Pope Francis: “We no longer need an adversary in order to define ourselves, because the all-encompassing gaze we learn from Christ leads us to discover otherness in a new way, as an integral part and condition of relationship and closeness.”

Fourthly, every Journalist and Media Practitioners must understand that the beginning and end of every communications is God Himself.  In order to communicate with us and to communicate himself to us, God adapts himself to our language, establishing a real dialogue with humanity throughout history. What that simply means is that the inspiration and capacity to understand and communicate effectively among human persons is derived from the communion of love that exists among the divine Persons. “God is not Solitude, but Communion; he is Love, and therefore communication, because love always communicates; indeed, it communicates itself in order to encounter the other.”


We must make a commitment today to the building of a human community that takes human relationships more seriously.  Such a community propels us not only to communicate, but also to welcome and understand the gift of the other person.  We must make it as part of our daily slogan that “in order to be myself I need others. I am truly human, truly personal, only if I relate to others.”  In the end, the authentic path of building a more human community is to move from being an individual who perceives the other as a rival, to a person who recognizes others as travelling companions.



 Father Chris N Anyanwu

Director of Social Communications,

Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria


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