Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, incoming head of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, urged Asian bishops to bring in more women and youth in its communications bodies.
The cardinal also reminded church leaders that listening is a crucial communication skill that is necessary in building trust among communities and peoples.
The Manila prelate addressed the gathering of members of the Office of Social Communication of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in Manila on Dec. 10.
“Some of the best communicators are women,” said the cardinal. “But look at us here,” he said to laughter. “We are not just all males. We are celibate males,” he added.
There was only one nun in the gathering.
With his trademark use of humor, the cardinal joked that whenever he calls home, his father responds briefly, mainly to ask about his well-being, then immediately passes the phone to his mother.
“With my mother, the communication is difficult to stop,” he said laughing.
Importance of people
Cardinal Tagle’s remarks seem to indicate what road he will take in his new assignment in the Vatican.
“Having a beautiful building in itself does not guarantee evangelization,” said the cardinal. “It is the training and formation of people,” he added.
Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne joined Cardinal Tagle in the groundbreaking for the Veritas Asia Institute of Social Communications in Quezon City.
“When I was a young boy, some of the most memorable catechetical lessons were learned under a tree,” Cardinal Tagle said in remarks made during the groundbreaking rites.
“If I were asked where we had these catechetical lessons, I could not name any building. Children were gathered. We had cookies. We had candies. And we came to the lessons,” he said.
Church leaders need to listen
Cardinal Tagle told the bishops that evangelization is communication.
“God is a God who communicates, who dialogues. But He is also a God who listens,” Cardinal Tagle said.
He urged them to nurture the “spirituality of listening to God and neighbors, and to the signs of the times.”
“We are all in a hurry, rushing to say something, to issue a statement even when we have not heard yet,” he said.
“We have already something prepared without knowing what the question or statement is,” he said to more laughter among members of the clergy.
“Listening comes first,” said the cardinal.
“Many people are longing for someone and a community to listen. Even if you have no words, you communicate your presence, your compassion, your unity,” he said.
He cited Pope Francis as a good example of a person who spreads the culture of person to person communications.
The pontiff, he noted, reaches out to people who symbolize a class or group that often faces discrimination to send a strong message of solidarity, even across religious divides.
While new savvy is needed to navigate the minefields of digital revolution and artificial intelligence, Cardinal Tagle said the Church must hone other kinds of intelligence to understand context.
Without this, communicators cannot collapse complex ideas to meet the demands of the digital age, he said.
Relational intelligence, he added, will allow communities to avert conflicts before these erupt and increase the odds of quickly resolving those that do break out.
The Church, said the cardinal, is also in great need of “inspired intelligence of people who generate greater trust and confidence.”
“In our world today, (there is) so much fear, suspicion and prejudice. We don’t know whom to trust,” he said. “We need people who can generate that atmosphere of trust.”
Asian bishops under the Office of Social Communication are meeting in Manila this week with the theme “Pastoral Communication in Asia Today: Challenges and Opportunities for the Digital Age.”
Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
The Vatican announced Cardinal Tagle’s appointment on Dec. 8, Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
In his new post, the cardinal will oversee the Church’s work in most of the dioceses in Africa, Asia, and Oceania, about one-third of the world’s 4,000 dioceses.
The Manila prelate currently heads Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of at least 165 Catholic charities around the world.