Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
interventions is important. To be willing does not mean to try to be omnipresent in the media, giving the impression of seeking notoriety. The media can be disloyal: it delighted to create its protagonists and then it rid itself of them in a short time, or in other cases turn them into slaves of the type of image that it has created. Hence, we must know well what it is that we wish to communicate and to do so in a measured way in important moments. The ideal is that we ourselves be the ones who are "firmly in command" of communication, creating propitious occasions and launching the messages that so compel us.
It is important "to be oneself" in communication. Each one has his own personality as communicator. Benedict XVI is different from John Paul II, but he also -- as we see increasingly -- is able to communicate with his style. Some are more agreeable, others more sober, etc., but what is important is that it be seen that the one who communicates is a sincere person, who "answers" for what he says, able to transmit convictions and emotions, beyond a cold, bureaucratic and "clerical" language in the negative sense of the term. We must remember that witness and lived experience are generally much more effective messages than conceptual reasoning or long speeches: it is good that our communication also has elements and aspects of this nature.
Finally, an observation: If there are things that are really reserved and that for good reasons must not be made public, they must not be told, in the end not even to friends. In the present-day world, discretion -- being reserved -- does not exist or is not considered a value, and we cannot lament if news circulates that we ourselves have given. I believe that to be good communicators also implies being able to observe the limits of communication, to distinguish well between what must be communicated and the time in which it must be communicated, and what must not be communicated or what must not yet be communicated.
In addition to the contents, an aspect that I consider important to underline is the pastoral care of agents of communication, namely, the relationship with journalists and the personal quality of this relationship.
It is necessary to keep in mind that they are concrete persons, with their human and job problems, with the indications they receive from their directors and that, at times, strongly condition their liberty. To manifest care and understanding of them, to seek occasions to meet, including personally, to invite them to participate in common moments (feast of their patron St. Francis de Sales, World Day of Social Communications, the beginning and end of the pastoral year), in certain very important or dramatic events, or thanking them for the attention shown in certain important events for the ecclesial community. All these are ways to create greater harmony to facilitate mutual confidence and understanding.
An observation that I consider important refers to the so-called "communication of crises," namely, of situations in which the Church is in difficulty because of grave scandals or accusations and is subjected to criticisms and attacks including in the media. Let us think of recent situations related to sexual abuses. It is necessary to be prepared for similar eventualities. The argument has been the object of further studies (for example Santiago de la Cerva, Communication of Crises in the Church, EDUSC). I believe it necessary to evoke it here and to recall some elementary counsels:
The only truly effective measure is to anticipate the problems, to reduce the risks before they become a crisis and to prepare for the worst.
To determine, in the first place, what the message of the institution will be, to identify the public to which it is directed, to choose a spokesman and the appropriate channels of communication.
Not to think only of the "external" public, but before anything else of the "internal" workings of the Church, to keep its confidence. To think of the victims: the public will judge how the people have been treated who --voluntarily or not -- have been harmed.
The perceptions of the public are important as is the truth of the events: the problem must be contemplated with the eyes of the public (there is a "tribunal of public opinion") and if the people think there is a crisis, the crisis already exists.
It is necessary to try to recover the initiative, to become a source of information, to collaborate with the authorities, and to respond to the media.
It is necessary to speak with one voice and to transmit consistent, clear, simple and repeated messages. Voices that contradict one another destroy the confidence of listeners.
The key word is "credibility," to always and only tell the truth. We must never lie, hide the truth or affirm things that are not confirmed. Only one lie destroys ...
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