A Keynote address by the Episcopal Chairman for Social Communications, Most Rev. Godfrey Onah; at the Second 2015 Plenary Meeting of the Association of Diocesan/Religious Directors of Social Communications holding at the Pastoral Centre, Ikot-Ekpene Diocese, Akwa Ibom State; October 12th - 14th; 2015.

It is with great pleasure, I welcome you all to this Second Plenary meeting for the year 2015 taking place in Ikot-Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State. It would have been a great opportunity for me to meet with you in person at this particular gathering, but other pressing spiritual and pastoral activities that require immediate attention make this difficult. However, I assure you of my prayers and solidarity for a fruitful deliberations and successful outcome of your meeting.

Communication and God's Mercy
The theme of your deliberation - Communicating God's Mercy in a multi-Cultural Society is not only apt but timely. This is because the Holy Father, Pope Francis has chosen as a theme for the 2016 World Communications as "Communication and Mercy: A fruitful encounter." As the church celebrates the extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy, which begins Dec. 8, the Pope by this decision is inviting us all, media practitioners and directors of communications to a deeper reflection on the link between communication and mercy.

This theme highlights the capacity of good communication to open up a space for dialogue, mutual understanding and reconciliation, thereby allowing fruitful human encounters to flourish. At a time when our attention is often drawn to the polarized and judgmental nature -of much commentary on social networks, the theme of mercy invokes the power of words and gestures to overcome misunderstandings, to heal memories and to build peace and harmony.

Pope Francis reminds us, that "good communication is never merely the product of the latest or most developed technology, but is realized within the context of a deep interpersonal relationship" and people's desire to be more welcoming and forgiving.

Furthermore, the Holy Father brings to focus the connection between mercy and communication in his document officially proclaiming the 2015-2016 extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy, when he noted that "the way the church communicates -- her language and her gestures must transmit mercy, so as to touch the hearts of all people and inspire them once more to find the road that leads to the father," cf (Misericordiae Vultus,).

The Pope further noted "When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive." cf (Misericordiae Vultus,).

Nigeria and God's Mercy
If there is any society that needs God's mercy, it is our country Nigeria that has for so long been besieged by what appears to be unending boko-haram terrorist attacks that has claimed thousands of lives since 2009 till now.

Added to this, are the challenge of proliferation of Christian Churches with its attendant gospel of prosperity that tend to bring in its wake a distorted view of Christianity, as well as the negative impact of gay union and other related moral decadence which has threatened family life, the dignity of the human person, the sanctity of marriage and debasement of core natural values.

As you deliberate, do not forget also to pay particular attention to the Nigerian nation, which is not only a good example of multi-cultural setting but also a multi-religious country with different groups existing along with the two major religions of Christianity and Islam.

We need continually to live in Peace as brothers and sisters, irrespective of tribe or ethnic affiliation, since we have no other country except NIGERIA. Our God encourages a classless society; which at the same time connotes: fellowship, love, cooperation, mutual understanding, tolerance, respect and acceptance of other people's views or belief, democratization, decentralization, interaction, collaboration and sharing.

Again, the ultimate in this perspective as preached by Christianity is justice, equity, equality, love and the promotion of the common good for all. This is exactly what we are called to defend and uphold.

As media practitioners, you must find practical ways to ensure that your publications reflect the message of God's mercy and peace, solidarity and collaboration bearing in mind the social teachings of the Church as a practical guide.

Perhaps and more importantly, as arrowheads of the Church's communication apostolate, you are called to be true witnesses of Christ in words and actions, to prove that the love and mercy of God knows no bounds and no sin is beyond forgiveness once there is repentance and contrite of heart. I therefore admonish you to imbibe the spirit of the Jubilee Year of Mercy as you go about your communication evangelization apostolate noting that all powers belong to God and His mercy knows no bounds.

I wish you successful deliberations, hoping that the outcome of your meeting will be most beneficial for the evangelization mission of the Church in our country, Nigeria; and promote God's love amongst all peoples of the world irrespective of colour, tribe, religion or social status.


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