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Communications Sunday - 20 May 2012

In his Message for Communications Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI has written about the need to rediscover silence as an integral part of communication. In this letter, I hope to give you just a flavour of what the Holy Father has written in his Message, which is typically packed full of insight and originality.

Silence is a concept which is ever rarer in today s world. For many of us the media form a soundtrack to our daily lives which begins the moment we wake up and ends only when we go to sleep. The radio or TV fills a space in our minds, social media fill spaces in our lives which previously we may have used for reflection, and even as we walk through the streets we see many people block out reflective space with music players.

In living in this way we deprive ourselves of one of the greatest gifts of humanity “ the gift of silent reflection which leads to understanding. There are moments in life which call for silence. So, for example, each year on Remembrance Day we are united in a minute s silence to recollect all those who have lost their lives in warfare. At football matches silence is often the way in which the crowd will unite in paying tribute to the death of a great player. There are the moments too when we are lost for words: at the birth of a child, before the beauty of a great work of art, or the majesty of a golden sunset over the ocean, silence is often the only appropriate response.

At this time, we are still celebrating the mystery of Easter.   We can imagine the wonder of the disciples as they witness the glory of Christ s Resurrection and Ascension. The scenes painted in the Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles depict them, open-mouthed, staring heavenward. Silence need not mean emptiness; silence can be the contemplation of glory.

The Holy Father observes that it is often in silence that we observe the most authentic communications taking place between people who are in love: gestures, facial expressions and body language are signs by which they reveal themselves to each other.

Pope Benedict reminds us that God also speaks without words. The great Christian mysteries are first of all what God does even before God speaks. At Christmas, when God gives us his only-begotten Son, the great carols celebrate silence. We sing Silent Night, Holy Night , and we also sing, How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given . And it is in silence that Holy Saturday is transformed into Easter Resurrection.

The Pope reminds us that in silence our prayer becomes contemplation and deep communion with God. But, wondrously, out of this silent contemplation there comes a new energy for mission and evangelisation. The Pope observes: Silent contemplation immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbours 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.

The Pope concludes his Message in this way: Word and silence: learning to communicate is learning to listen and contemplate as well as speak. This is especially important for those engaged in the task of evangelization: both silence and word are essential elements, integral to the Church s work of communication for the sake of a renewed proclamation of Christ in today s world.

I hope you will be as generous as you normally are in the second collection today, which goes towards supporting that great communications effort of the Church which is so relevant and necessary in our times.   For many people the Church s voice is only ever heard via the means of social communication, and so we cannot afford to neglect this area of outreach. May we learn to value both silence and word in our daily lives and in so doing draw closer to God and our brothers and sisters.

X Philip Tartaglia, Bishop of Paisley

President of the Communications Commission

May 2012

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