At the Vatican News website, Alessandro Gisotti offers an important and fascinating look at how Pope Francis communicates by listening:

Listening is a fundamental and original component in Pope Francis’s “countercultural communication”. It is no coincidence that in this period marked by the impossibility of moving and the drastic reduction in the number of people he meets, the Pope – with that “creativity of love” to which he frequently refers – has devoted a lot of time to reaching people through a rather old communication tool that never goes out of fashion: the telephone. During the months of lockdown, Pope Francis made countless calls to suffering people, to Covid-19 patients, to the elderly, and even to nurses and young people (for example, to those of the Oratory of Nembro in one of the Italian areas most affected by the virus), who rolled up their sleeves to help those in difficulty. These phone calls made by Jorge Mario Bergoglio serve more to listen to the experiences of those on the other hand, rather than to offer advice. “This,” he said in an interview with a Spanish magazine, “helped me feel the pulse of how families and communities were living at that moment”.

On the other hand, already back in 2016, Pope Francis had stressed that listening “is much more than hearing” – “listening means paying attention, having the desire to understand, to give value, to respect, to treasure the word of others.” During his international trip to Mexico that same year, while speaking to the young people of the city of Morelia, he said that when a friend finds him or herself in difficulty, it is necessary to stand beside them and listen:

Don’t say: ‘I have the solution for you’. Give them strength by your listening, that medicine which sadly is being forgotten: ‘the therapy of listening.’

What is needed, he reiterated during the Jubilee Year of Mercy, is an “apostolate of the ear.” This formula seems to echo St Francis of Assisi’s exhortation to his friars: “Incline the ear of your heart.”

After meeting Mother Teresa, the Italian author Pier Paolo Pasolini, said “where she looks, she sees.” In a way, in his dimension as a communicator, “where Pope Francis hears, he listens”. For him, listening is part of the ABCs of human relationships. It requires time, it requires patience – the right amount of time to get closer to the other person, shortening distances and overcoming prejudices. It is an attitude that at times surprises, but that is perfectly consistent with the vision of a “Church which goes forth”, of a Church as a “field hospital” – a vision that Pope Francis takes upon himself and bears witness to. “Communicating,” Pope Francis has written, “means sharing, and sharing demands listening.”

Read it all. 

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