Inaugural Address: International Congress, Pontifical Council for Social Communications

Authored By: Archbishop Angelo Amato, S.D.B.

Inaugural Address: International Congress, Pontifical Council for Social Communications

Archbishop Angelo Amato, S.D.B.
Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Healing spiritual deafness by awakening faith

Despite the widespread use of television, listening to the radio has still retained all its power and usefulness, because it can be listened to everywhere, even on the road, in a car or at work.

As well as "videns", man is also "audiens", listening not only to thousands of words of his peers but also to the Word of God. That "Hear, O Israel..." of Deuteronomy 6:4 is not only the famous incipit of Israel's profession of faith but can also be considered the symbol of a whole religion, the religion of the world and of listening".1

The religion of Israel is the religion of the acceptance of God's word that abides by his ten eternal words of love (Ex 20:2-17). Divine transcendence allows no other approach than that of listening. God speaks, man listens to him without seeing him.

For this reason the expression "Word of God" is the most frequently used and most meaningful way to express the divine communication: "In the theophanies the tangible manifestation is the service of the Word. It is not seeing the divinity that matters but rather listening to his word.... This prevalence of hearing over seeing is one of the essential characteristics of Biblical revelation".2

With the Incarnation of the Word, divine Revelation reached its apex. The Word of God was not only heard but also seen. Jesus Christ was the Verbumincarnatum who offered to all humanity the light of his saving truth.3

God's self-communication in Jesus and in his word corresponds to human reason's free and conscious choice of readiness to listen and receive. In this way the human person performs the most meaningful act of his very existence, reaching the certainty of truth and deciding to live by it.

Listening is now directed to the Word: "This is my beloved Son; listen to him" (Mk 9:7). Jesus is the definitive revealer: "No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father's heart, who has made him known" (Jn 1:18).

Listening to Christ is the task of his disciples and also the mission of the Church. This listening, for today's humanity, bewildered by relativistic and immanentist attitudes, remains the true North star and the ultimate chance to rediscover in its fullness the original project of our personal own fulfilment: "The truth of Christian Revelation, found in Jesus of Nazareth, enables all men and women to embrace the 'mystery' of their own life. As absolute truth, it summons human beings to be open to the transcendent, while respecting both their autonomy as creatures and their freedom. At this point the relationship between freedom and truth is complete, and we understand the full meaning of the Lord's words: 'You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free' (Jn 8:32)".4

If part of the word of God had first resounded in the Old Testament and then in precious fragments outside the Judaic biblical tradition as well, with Jesus the Word of God rediscovered its full expressive human charge.

The Prologue to the Letter to the Hebrews says: "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He... uphold[s] the universe by his work of power" (Heb 1:1-3). And St. John affirms: "The Word became flesh and dwelled among us, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14).

However, Jesus also presents himself as a great teacher of the communication of words. While other founders of religions took an entire life to train their followers, for Jesus three years sufficed to teach his disciples, not only to listen Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to his words but especially to live with and for him. He announced the Kingdom of God with the enthusiasm, conviction and authority of his words as a teacher: "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" (Mt 19:16); "Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man, and teach God's way sincerely. You court no one's favour and do not act out of human respect" (Mt 22:16).

His communication was not merely an expression of mind and heart but the profound gift of himself in love. He was truly spirit and life. John Paul II called Our Lord "The Communicator par excellence who shares with those who believe in him the truth, the life and the love which he shares with his Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit".5

'Fides ex auditu' (Rm 10:7)

Following Jesus' example, the first disciples became tireless preachers of his Gospel. Thus, Paul could incisively affirm: "Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ".6

And the word of Christ, like every word of God, is true, salvific and effective: "For just as from the heavens the rain and the snow come down, and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it" (Is 55:10-11).

Jesus says that those who listen to him become his next of kin: "My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it" (Lk 8:21). It is then possible to understand Elizabeth's praise of Mary, the Virgin audiens et credens: "Blest is she who trusted that the Lord's words to her would be fulfilled" (Lk 1:45).

We learn from the parable of the sower that listening is not enough, that the acceptance of the word in a hospitable heart is also necessary. The sower sows the word (cf. Mk 4:14). The seed he sows falls along the path or on rocky ground and does not produce fruit because those who listen to him are immediately deceived by Satan who comes and takes away the word which is sown in them; or they are inconstant and when tribulation arises on account of the word they immediately fall away.

There are also some who receive the seed sown among thorns. They are the ones who hear the word, but the cares of the world, the delight in riches and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word and the sowing yields no fruit.

Lastly, the seed falls on good soil. This soil consists of those who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty-fold and sixty-fold and a hundredfold (cf. Mk; 4:14-20).

For man to become what he hears, proclamation is indispensable. In listening, he grasps the word that shapes his life. It was in listening to Jesus' words that Mary kept these things and pondered them in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19). "Listen" is also the first word of St Benedict's Rule.

The radio, a modern pulpit of the Word of God

In the liturgical assembly as well as in catechesis, listening to the Word of God can also take place in the daily events of our lives by means of the radio, which is a privileged form of communication of the word. Radio's advantage stems from the freedom it leaves to the listener, who is captured not so much by the obligation to listen as by the fascination of the word.

Any radio of Catholic inspiration must express in practice the Apostle Paul's exhortation: "Let the word of Christ, rich as it is, dwell in you. In wisdom made perfect instruct and admonish one another" (Col 3:16). Radio, like the modern media, is an important instrument for the evangelization of culture today. It is a form of communication intimately sustained by the Word of God.

For this reason communication must be clear (not equivocal), presented with professionalism (hence by well trained operators) and witnessed to by a life consistent with the Gospel message.'

In a certain way, the word listened to makes it possible to "see" reality, in the sense that it evokes it by challenging the intelligence, arousing emotions, provoking or even confirming the assent of faith in the word of God.

The microphone of Catholic radio can be considered the modern version of the ambo, not set in the centre of a grandiose basilica like that of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, but at the centre of an even more grandiose basilica, that of the human community that it reaches.

And if the faithful focused an attentive gaze on the ancient ambo, they listen as they face this modern pulpit — invisible but present and alive in reality — to hear of the marvels that God has wrought and brings about in the history of humanity.

This is a true and proper spirituality of listening that must correspond to a spirituality of communication which is salt of the earth and light of the world (Mt 5:14-16). In fact, proclamation of the Word of God and its encounter with the person listening determine a sapiential dialogue that gives rise to reflection, kindles emotions and leads to action — in a word, awakens a response.

However, a specific prerequisite is necessary on the part of the one who communicates the truth about our faith. In fact, he does not only recount something he knows but also something in which he is personally involved, in which he believes, as he expresses to the listener the vital centre of his life. This is an ostension of the truth but also a witness of his own faith.

The communicative power of words exceeds any other expressive form of humanity. For this reason Karl Rahner described man as a "hearer of the word" (Hörer des Wortes).8 Actually, his inner structure consists in his openness not only o the words of his peers but also and above all to the Word of God. Thus the word becomes the place where the divine truth is unveiled.

Against all relativism and all agnosticism with regard to the truth, Karl Rahner insists on the anthropological centrality of the word as the maximum identity of the human being and his freedom in history. Of course, the vision of the Word of God would be the loftiest fulfilment of man's aspiration to the truth. Let us recall, however, Jesus' answer to the Apostle Thomas: "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (Jn 20:29).

A radio that educates and edifies

Two days ago (17 June 2008). while they were at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during their ad limina visit, the Bishops of Pakistan praised the broadcasts of the Catholic station Radio Veritas in Urdu, their official language. In this way, as Christians immersed in the sea of Muslim culture that is neither particularly friendly nor tolerant, they receive important human and spiritual support for their existence.

I believe that today, even in our nations with a long-standing Christian tradition, we find ourselves besieged by a weak and relativistic culture that does not gladly accept the proposal of the Christian truth. This is why the task of a radio station of Catholic inspiration is to serve God's truth, shedding light on the human adventure of our brothers and sisters in the faith.

It is Catholic radio's task to spread the truth, explain it, witness to it and illustrate it. Above all, it must present the truth of the Gospel in such a way that it is not just one opinion among others. The truth of Christ is not an opinion. The truth of Christ creates opinion.

Catholic radio also has the role of providing an indispensable supplement to education since the traditional places for the formation of young people, such as families and schools, are failing in their task of presenting the criteria of good and evil. Instead, they leave room for a permissive drifting, devoid of ethical guidelines, which does not lead to the education but rather to the perversion of the young.

At the next Festival of the Two Worlds in Spoleto [Italy] which will open 2 July, in the Church of Sant'Eufemia. Giovanni Maria Vian, editor-in-chief of, will he the protagonist of a public reading of the Gospel according to John. In the context of the same event the film-director Cristina Comencini will read Matthew, the writer Giorgio Montefoschi will read Luke and the Russian Catholic woman religious, Tatiana Avdokushina, will read Mark.

When asked what he expected of this experience Vian answered: "Of course, a public like that of Spoleto cannot fail to be moved by the drama of the Gospels.... I do not doubt that some will be prompted to reread these texts quietly, just as happened to Pier Paolo Pasolini in Umbria, when, at the suggestion of Fr Giovanni Rossi, he discovered Matthew's Gospel, all at once on a single evening."9

He then added, ''Reading non-stop for an hour and a quarter gives rise to emotion because of the enormity of the symbols and suggestions with which the text is interwoven; but it also reveals the extraordinary cultural importance of what the imagination of the entire West has been founded on for 20 centuries".10

The novelty of this initiative consists in introducing the integral reading of the four Gospels, frequently unknown even to the faithful themselves, into the cultural circuit and the media with the greatest impact. In fact, in half the number of homes in France there is no longer a copy of this text; in Italy the text exists but is not read.

This is the service that Catholic radio can render to the word: they can make the Gospel known, tell the story of Jesus, illustrate it with the wealth of the perceptive exegesis of the Fathers of the Church and actualize it with important contributions of modern scholarship.

Another essential service of Catholic radio is to facilitate the acceptance and understanding of magisterial Documents, especially the Pope's Encyclicals.

The Documents of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which always hit the headlines, also serve to illuminate certain important topics for men and women of today.

By way of example I mention several Documents issued in the past 12 months. At the end of June 2007, the Dicastery published five responses to queries on the subsistence in history of the one Church of Christ in the Catholic Church, with important ecumenical explanations.

In December 2007, a Doctrinal Note onSome Aspects of Evangelization was published. It explains the legitimacy of the missio ad gentes in today's relativistic culture which no longer feels the need for a truthful reference point in one's own conscience.

On 30 May 2008, a disciplinary Decree was published in L'Osservatore Romano on the attempted ordination of a woman to the priesthood. These are three topics of great relevance today — the nature of the Church, evangelization and the Catholic priesthood — which other media do not adequately cover. It is the duty of Catholic radio to present them, explain them and give their causes, encouraging their acceptance through dialogue with their listeners and responding to their listener's difficulties.

I do not know how many Catholic radios have made in-depth analyses and, above all, communicated these findings properly rather than in a hasty or superficial manner.

For example, the Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization emphasizes important anthropological aspects of them Christian proclamation, such as religious freedom, the openness of every person to the truth, the legitimacy of proposing the Christian truth to one's neighbour with respect for his freedom and his conscience. This explains why the free and aware conversion of men and women to the Catholic faith cannot be classified as proselytism.

The Decree of Excommunication, both for those who attempt the ordination of women and for women who have themselves ordained, is also noteworthy. Such ordinations are totally invalid or null. The mere notification of excommunication does not of course suffice; a Catholic radio must explain the reason for this excommunication. This reason dates back to the will of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which does not permit the Church to Change it. Thus, it is not a question of anti-feminism but rather of respect for the will of Jesus, who appears in the Gospels as a feminist ante litteram.

The means of communication even of parishes and dioceses often oppose and criticize Documents of the Magisterium, instead of accepting them as illuminating the right path through life.

On the contrary, Catholic radio must be able to respond charitably and clearly to external criticism and to internal difficulties. In the numerous talk-shows broadcast from morning till night, Catholic radio must truly be able to distinguish itself for its service to the truth of the Word of God and to the Magisterium of the Church.

It cannot lower itself to correspond to the agendas of secular newspapers and radios but Catholic radio must propose its own editorial line creatively, with the greatest possible range of "edifying" proposals in the strongest sense of the term, in other words to raise souls to dialogue with God and to the edification of one's neighbour, for example, by recounting the lives of Saints, great and small, known and unknown, Western and Eastern.

Just as Catholic radio is indispensable in the clarification and updating of the process of the dual ecumenical dialogue of charity and truth, it can and should present the Catholic viewpoint in interreligious dialogue, educating the faithful to have a correct relationship with non-Christians and not to exclude the proclamation of the Gospel, conversion to Jesus and Baptism.

In addition, Catholic radio could debate the numerous problems in the fields of bioethics, bio-politics or the Social Doctrine of the Church.

It could also present the fascinating story of evangelization on the various continents. It could discuss seriously certain events of Church history in order to overcome unfounded accusations and stereotype prejudices that do not correspond with the reality, of the facts and the results of study: the significance of the Crusades, the Inquisition, the evangelization of the Americas, relations between science and faith and the Galileo case or relations between Pius XII and the Jews during the Second World War.

Yet; above all, Catholic radio should be concerned for the field of continuing catechesis, taking into account the four pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (and its Compendium): the Creed, the Sacraments, the Ten Commandments and prayer.

Catholic radio's heart is God's mercy itself, whose word saves, encourages, illumines, educates and opens us to love of neighbour. Like the Gospel, radio is not only a communication of information but also of life.

"The Gospel", Benedict XVI says, "is not merely a communication of things that can be known — it is one that makes things happen and is life-changing. The dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life".11

The Church has a 2,000-year-old library of authors and texts that describe her beneficial pilgrimage through the history of peoples and nations, It consists of the testimonies of Apostles, martyrs, Saints, scientists, philosophers, theologians and thinkers. This library is an inexhaustible mine of events and words of life that translate the Gospel of Christ into daily human existence in all its phases of joy and sorrow.

The book of the word and the book of nature

Every now and then the radio broadcasts the news of some scientific discovery. The third millennium opened with the memorable event of the deciphering of the human genome which includes all the DNA of our species. It is the inherited code of life that contains three billion characters and is written into a strange cryptographic code of four letters:

"Every cell of the human body bears within it such extraordinarily complex information that a direct interpretation of this code at the rate of a letter a second, would require 31 years, day and night without interruption".12

In announcing this from the White House Bill Clinton said without any doubt this was the most important map produced by humanity. He then added: "Today we are beginning to learn the language with which God created life. And this only increases our submission before the complexity, beauty and wonder of God's, most perfect and sacred gin".13

The reference to God that is frequent even in the American political mindset is rare with us. A quick look at the instruction manual of our life, the human genome, whose language had previously been known only to God, inspires our amazement and wonder at the great book of nature, also a word of God, which, as well as the book of the word, Catholic radio must help people to appreciate.

Harmony exists between science and faith. Communicating the marvels of this two-volume book with which God revealed himself and his creation is the great task of every Christian communicator. Science and faith are attuned and not in opposition.

This should be the service of Catholic radio: to work the miracle of the "Ephphatha" (Mk 7:34) to heal the spiritual deafness of today.



1 S. Dianich, Vedere le "cose" della fede, in "Parola, Spirito e Vita", 2008, n. 57, p. 265.

2 R. Latourelle, Teologia della rivelazione, Cittadella, Assisi, 1967, p. 14 3 38.

3 Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio, n. 11.

4 Ibid., n. 15.

5 John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, n. 122.

6Fides ex auditu, auditus autem per verbum Christi" (Rm 10:17). The Latin translation corresponds better to the Greek text: "őρα ή πίστις έξ όκοής. ή δέ όκοή".

7 Cardinal Camillo Ruini, La Chiesa e i media: chiarezza e simpatia, in "Il Regno Documenti", 2008, n. 53, pp. 210-212.

8 Cf. K. Rahner, Uditori della parola, Borla, Turin, 1967.

9 Interview by Paolo Conti and published in Corriere della sera, 9 June 2008, p. 10.


11 Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, n. 2.

12 Francis S. Collins, Il linguaggio di Dio, Sperling & Kupfer Editors, Milan, 2007, p. XIII.

13 Cited by Francis S. Collins, Il linguaggio di Dio, p. XIV.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
2 July 2008, page 13

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