Communicating the Beauty of the Family, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome (October 29-2021)
In the middle of the year dedicated by the Holy Father to the family, a study day on the communication of the beauty of the family in the Church was held at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. The day was aimed at students and professionals in the Church’s institutional communications, as well as representatives of organizations involved in communication and pastoral care of the family. Participants were able to follow the work both in person and online.
During the plenary session, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, Archbishop of Perugia and President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, spoke about the role of the family during the Covid 19 pandemic: “In the last two years, the world has been focused on family homes, which have courageously taken on the demands of the emergency. People have had to work from home, accompany their children in online classes, and help the family to make up for the lack of external interaction. Those with experience in caring for the disabled have become physiotherapists, speech therapists and, according to their possibilities, have bridged the huge gap created in the care services. Family ties have shown us the depth of solidarity and sharing that often exists in the chaotic daily life of so-called normality.” In this context, “the creative capacity that so many families have shown for the benefit of the whole community is undeniable.”
In this context, the Cardinal pointed out, “it is necessary to highlight the importance of family policies that support the missionary role of the family, which is above all that of opening up to future life.”
According to Cardinal Bassetti, “it is worthwhile seeking ways for fatherhood and motherhood to be proclaimed not simply as a moral necessity of the family, but as a beautiful and challenging experience in which men and women are called to put their differences into play as equals in supporting the growth of young children. We need a renewed proclamation of the reciprocity of masculine and feminine qualities, in which no one should see motherhood or fatherhood as a limitation, but as an essential experience of making room for the other.”
The President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference also reminded people that “the future search for the common good begins in the family. Only through the family will it be possible to accept Pope Francis’ invitation to transform the world with a family spirit. This is an invitation that implies an educational effort in society, so that it acquires the beautiful ‘grammar’ of the family, by which all men and women become aware of being connected by strong ties, which protect especially the weakest and not the strongest. This family solidarity has the potential to be a school capable of achieving an ecological advance that renews humanity.” To achieve this, “it is not enough for the Church to educate and support families in this area. Catholics capable of bringing about this renewal are needed.”
In the afternoon, a round table discussion was held with the spokespersons of the dioceses of Milan, Stefano Femminis; of Rome, Fr. Walter Insero; and of Nola, Mariangela Parisi, introduced by the director of the National Office for Social Communication of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Vincenzo Corrado, and moderated by Giovanni Tridente, director of communication at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. Also taking part in the sessions were Daniel Arasa and Gema Bellido, respectively dean and researcher of the faculty of communications of the organizing university.
Mariangela Parisi spoke about the “Querido diario” project, an initiative of the Diocese of Nola and Catholic Action that seeks to reach out to the neediest families. During the pandemic, the diocese offered the diocesan newspaper free of charge to the parishes which, through volunteers, sold the copies and used the proceeds to pay for school supplies for families who could not cover the education of their children.
Fr. Walter Insero presented the World Meeting of Families in Rome, which has been modified due to the pandemic. In the end, he said, only about 1,200 family pastoral delegates from all the world’s bishops’ conferences will come to Rome. “We asked ourselves how to make clear the beauty and authenticity of the family and we came to the conclusion that the best thing to do was to involve families directly through the telling of their own experiences and real life, avoiding formal speeches. We are preparing videos in several languages that will be hosted on the website of the meeting. In the logo and other materials accompanying the event, the walls of the church are made up of families, to remind us that the Church is a family of families.” Among the communication initiatives, Insero also highlighted the use of social media to share the presentations with many other people around the world. He mentioned three projects that will receive support thanks to the World Meeting of Families, as a specific legacy of this event: the solidarity center Santa Jacinta, the “House of the Immaculate” (which welcomes women and mothers in difficulty), and the “Amanda House,” where elderly people suffering from Alzheimer’s are cared for.
Stefano Femminis, head of the Social Communication Office of the Diocese of Milan, said that “there are three fundamental words for effective communication in the family and with the family, especially in times of a pandemic: listening, immersion and collaboration.” Femminis presented three pilot projects of the Diocese of Milan to accompany families during the pandemic.
Vincenzo Corrado, director of the National Office of Social Communications of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, stressed that “good communications generates family.” “Our communities can contribute to bringing about a different culture, doing so with creativity, fostering strong relationships through good communications, relationships of tenderness, care and authenticity, that build a climate of community. It is true that tenderness is associated in a special way with mothers. Precisely because the Church is a mother, our local Churches must be promoters of the cohesion and unity that tenderness gives rise to.” Corrado stressed that good communications can never renounce the truth, which requires listening: “Closeness requires listening. And this is especially true at the ecclesial level.”
The main sessions of the study day are available on video, on the YouTube channel of the University’s School of Communications.
Romana, n. 73, July-December 2021, p. 87-89.