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Francesco, the great communicator


Entre Amigos – Opinion/Commentary

March 18, 2013

By Mar Munoz-Visoso

In only a few days Pope Francis has surprised many by his communicative style: direct and simple, with two or three basic ideas easy to remember, and often going off-script to tell an interesting story or an anecdote that would illustrate his point.

The first two public interventions after he emerged in the balcony at St. Peter's are illustrative. In the homily during the Mass with the cardinal electors at the Sistine Chapel the day after his election, speaking from the ambo and not the chair, and without a prepared text, he spoke to his brother cardinals of a triple movement suggested by readings: to walk, to build, to confess. To walk in the presence of the Lord, like Abraham. To build up the Church as "living stones." To confess Christ Jesus without fear of the cross.

And again, in his first public audience with journalists and communicators, he chose yet another terna, borrowing from his predecessor, Benedict XVI: truth, goodness, beauty. After expressing his gratitude for the intense informative labor of the media in recent days, Pope Francis exhorted them to try to understand better the nature of the Church and her spiritual motivation, beyond her earthly and human structures.He suggested that, in reality, the Church and the media have a lot in common.

"Be assured that the Church, for her part, highly esteems your important work.At your disposal you have the means to hear and to give voice to people's expectations and demands, and to provide for an analysis and interpretation of current events.Your work calls for careful preparation, sensitivity and experience, like so many other professions, but it also demands a particular concern for what is true, good and beautiful.This is something which we have in common, since the Church exists to communicate precisely this: Truth, Goodness and Beauty "in person".It should be apparent that all of us are called not to communicate ourselves, but this existential triad made up of truth, beauty and goodness."

And having said that, he went on to relate, again in off-the-cuff remarks and with an open heart, the story of how and why is that he chose the name of Francis. He did it, he said, in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, the poor man, the man of peace, the one who cares for creation. Here is yet another triad. See the pattern here?

This communicative style, simple, agile, effective, does not of course surprise those accustomed to hear him preach at the cathedral or parishes in Buenos Aires. There he is famous for sometimes offering a five minute homily and then sitting down in silence for another five minutes so that pastor and people can meditate on the readings and their teachings.

From a communications perspective, the election of "Papa Bergolio" has given great impulse to the "kerigma," the proclamation of the Word. Where Benedict put the emphasis on doctrinal orthodoxy, contemplation of the mystery and depth, Francis now picks that legacy up and expresses it in his particular style with simple messages, easy to understand and remember. The New Evangelization certainly has received a boost, a great gift of the Spirit in the election of Francis. If what the cardinals were looking for was a spiritual leader to guide the boat of Peter in difficult times, certainly this has been an inspired choice. Let us now pray for him, that he surrounds himself with honest and efficient collaborators to help him in his mission. People who will know to push aside and out of the way all that may impede the Church to realize her mission of preaching, the Truth, the Goodness, and the Beauty "in person,", Christ crucified, the living Son of the Father.

It has been a true joy to accompany and observe the Holy Father in the first few days of his pontificate. The man exudes simplicity and closeness. But above all he has earned the trust of the people, who see in him a shepherd who walks with his sheep.

Ad multos annos! May God keep you for many years. Long live Pope Francis!


Mar Muñoz-Visoso is executive director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

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