Pope Benedict XVI believes that in a noisy world of constant communication people need silence more than ever.
He outlined his thoughts in his message for World Communications Day 2012, which is entitled “Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization.” The Pope’s letter was released Jan. 24 at the Vatican press office by Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
“When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary,” the Pope says in a statement that will be read in Catholic churches around the world on May 20, 2012.
“This makes it possible to share thoughtful and relevant opinions, giving rise to an authentic body of shared knowledge,” he writes.
Pope Benedict recommends making this interchange possible by developing “an appropriate environment, a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.”
He suggests that silence is required to make sense of the constant stream of information that people now receive via television, radio, the Internet and various forms of social media.
“In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves,” he says.
He also observes that silence can allow other people to express their thoughts. In this way “we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested,” and therefore, “space is created for mutual listening, and deeper human relationships become possible.”
Pope Benedict believes that this use of silence is “often more eloquent than a hasty answer,” because it “permits seekers to reach into the depths of their being and open themselves to the path towards knowledge that God has inscribed in human hearts.”
The Pope sees this need for silence as a part of Christian life from the earliest times. He points to the “eloquence of God’s love, lived to the point of the supreme gift,” which is seen “in the silence of the Cross,” when, after Christ’s death “there is a great silence over the earth.”
Silent contemplation also “immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbors so that we may feel their suffering and offer them the light of Christ, his message of life and his saving gift of the fullness of love,” he writes.
Archbishop Celli summed up the Pope’s message as reminding everyone that real communication involves pairing “words and silence” so that people are not “overwhelmed by the sheer volume of communication itself.”
Monsignor Paul Tighe, Secretary of the social communications council, explained to CNA that the Pope’s message “reminds us that the relevance of silence is equally important within the context of a digital environment.”
“Especially when we now find ourselves continually bombarded by messages, by ideas, by opinions, by news.
“And so the Pope is saying we need silence if we’re going to judge that, integrate it, make it our own and not simply be caught up in a flow of information.”