Beyond the digital, into the heart: a Vatican take on communication

Laptop. Credit: Thomas Lefebvre (CC0 1.0).
Laptop. Credit: Thomas Lefebvre (CC0 1.0).

.- The Vatican's top communications official said that true interaction requires more than just phones and internet – and that dialogue is an interpersonal encounter we learn even from our mother's womb.

“The first way of communication, the source of my learning is the womb of my mother,” Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli told CNA at the Jan. 23 presentation of Pope Francis’ message for World Communications Day.

“Can you imagine what that means? That from inside the womb of my mother I am starting to listen, I am discovering the sound of the voice of my mother and I am discovering the beatings of her heart. I am discovering what communication really is,” Archbishop Celli said.

And true communication, he added, “is how I am able to listen to you, how I can open my heart to you…this is the real human communication.”

Archbishop Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, spoke at the presentation of Pope Francis' message for the 49th World Communications Day, titled “Communicating the Family: A Privileged Place of Encounter with the Gift of Love.”

Pope Francis, he said, makes the valid point that although being a digital disciple is necessary, the human dimension of communication can never be forgotten – and that this is something we first see within our families.

From these relationships, we learn “proximity, to be open to the other, to share with the other what and who we are.” The “beauty of the family,” he said, lies in the diversity of their ages and members. Communication is then “is more of a human dimension than a technological dimension.”

We shouldn't lose this sense of human interaction in our daily emails and texts, he warned. “The risk is that I’m an expert in technology but I am not an expert in humanity. So it’s a capacity of listening, of being open, of sharing.”

Archbishop Celli also cautioned against the increase in youth and minors navigating the internet by themselves without the supervision of their parents, saying that although parents can offer much-needed education on technology, they are often absent.

“Today fathers and mothers are involved in so many things, they are so busy, but who is teaching the kids? (Who is teaching them) to be present in a human way and to have a real dialogue, real human communication with others, if we are not teaching them?” he asked.

The archbishop noted how although in last year's message for World Communications Day Pope Francis encouraged people to be disciples through social networks, the pontiff “is not naïve,” and is aware of the dangers that the digital continent can present.

Education, Archbishop Celli emphasized, is key in helping children grow in wisdom and their ability to be present in the world, as well as in the prevention of access to online dangers such as pornography.

Technology can either help or hinder the culture of encounter, he said. One positive effect is the ability to remain in contact with relatives who are far away.

“I know grandmothers who are learning how to deal with computers and programs because they want to speak with their grandchildren, (and) this is a real loving contact, it’s not virtual,” he said, noting how he himself is in contact with his family and friends every day through technology.

“So this is how new technologies – we are inhabitants of the digital continent – can really facilitate us in the spreading of such friendship and love, and this is a great opportunity.”

Tags: Vatican, Communications, Technology, New Media