For Communications Sunday, Peter Kearney of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, reflects on the Pope’s message on commending stories that "build up, not tear down".

This year, Pope Francis’ message for the 54th World Communications Day is on the theme of storytelling, and especially the truth contained in ‘good’ stories. The Pope focuses on storytelling, truth and who we are in God’s eyes. He refers to the Bible as “the great love story between God and humanity” with Jesus at its centre.

“Stories leave their mark on us; they shape our convictions and our behaviour. They can help us understand and communicate who we are” the Pope writes. While positive storytelling is upheld for its life-giving value, the Pope warns of sophisticated and persuasive forms of “fake” stories – cautioning against a materialistic mindset. He decries the false message that “to be happy we continually need to gain, possess and consume”.

He writes: “We may not even realise how greedy we have become for chatter and gossip, or how much violence and falsehood we are consuming. Often on communication platforms, instead of constructive stories which serve to strengthen social ties and the cultural fabric, we find destructive and provocative stories that wear down and break the fragile threads binding us together as a society.”

Threads which connect

Pope Francis commends stories “that build up, not tear down; stories that help us rediscover our roots and the strength needed to move forward together.”  He warns about “the cacophony of voices and messages that surround us” pointing out, that “we need a human story that can speak of ourselves and of the beauty all around us. A narrative that can reveal the interweaving of the threads which connect us to one another.” Although his message was written earlier this year before the full impact of the Coronavirus pandemic had been felt, it is very timely that the Pope chose to write about “the threads which connect us to one another”. Many people will feel these threads have been strained or even severed by the crisus caused by the virus.

Yet the Pope recognises that “Human beings are storytellers” who need to be “clothed” with stories to protect our lives.  We weave not only clothing, but also stories: indeed, he points out, that “the human capacity to “weave” (Latin texere) gives us not only the word textile but also text.” The explosion in new forms of audio and video communications during the pandemic, gives weight to the Pope’s observation.

Reject false and evil stories

He tells us, that by “immersing ourselves in stories, we can find reasons to heroically face the challenges of life”, while warning us, that “since the very beginning, our story has been threatened: evil snakes its way through history”. We are warned that “in an age when falsification is increasingly sophisticated, reaching exponential levels, we need wisdom to be able to welcome and create beautiful, true and good stories. We need courage to reject false and evil stories.”

The Pope commends Sacred Scripture as “a Story of stories” in which the Bible is “the great love story between God and humanity”  adding, that “in every generation, men and women are called to recount and commit to memory the most significant episodes of this Story of stories.” Pope Francis ends his message with a call to entrust ourselves to Our Lady and the "gentle strength of her love.”

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