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The silent word of the media

In the context of advanced digital age information technology, Pope Benedict XVI has chosen silence as the theme of his message for the 46th World Communications Day.

The pope says in Silence and Word: Path of Evangelisation, that he believes that human relationships can be deepened through silence, making human and media communication more meaningful and valuable, with a more profound human dimension.

Media convey messages through words and images and the internet allows a voluminous and fast information flow. Since the emergence of the social networking media, this aspect of human interaction has been broadened, adding colour to our lives. However, as the space for leisure and personal reflection has dwindled, human hearts have become more restless.

While we are concerned about freedom of expression in the local media, we should also pay attention to moral practices. In an era where digital technology is accelerating, the avalanche of negative, sometimes senseless, but plausible, information can be confusing.

In an information explosion, silence and the word seem to be at opposite ends of the pole. However, the pope points out, “The relationship between silence and word: two aspects of communication which need to be kept in balance, to alternate and to be integrated with one another if authentic dialogue and deep closeness between people are to be achieved.”

To this he adds, “When word and silence become mutually exclusive, communication breaks down, either because it gives rise to confusion or because, on the contrary, it creates an atmosphere of coldness; when they complement one another, however, communication acquires value and meaning.”

The pope stresses, “Silence is an integral element of communication,” because, “in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist.”

While media professionals work under the pressure of deadlines and are guided by a code of practice, silent reflection as put forward by the pope is noteworthy. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves, as well as think. “We understand more clearly what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves.”

The pope says, “Joy, anxiety, and suffering can all be communicated in silence.” From this message, we think of times of silence in the media when we reflect on the meaning of life in remembrance of a great person or a natural disaster.

A three-minute segment of national mourning after the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 and a Taiwanese singer, who passed away quietly on Chinese New Year Day, requesting her family not to announce the news until after the Chinese New Year, are both examples of silent media.

The media artist’s act of silence demonstrated her good will and virtue, earning praise and remembrance in society. Indeed, silence inspires us to reflect on the meaning of life and touches human hearts.

Silence leads to profound reflection and contemplation on God’s creation. Some people fear silence and feel lonely in silence. In fact, in a continual period of silence, we will find ourselves in the state of being embraced and loved rather than in solitude.

In silence, we can discover truth, overcome fear and are able to make friends with our own weakness, break away from pomposity and embrace the truth (Sharing the Life of Christ, page 46). SE