The crowd at the World Communications Day Mass held at the cathedral on May 13.

By Christopher Khoo

Fake news, lies and half-truths. These were the focus of the World Communications Day Mass held at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd on May 13.

“The Church recognises the role that mass media and communications, play in the life of each and every human person,” Fr John-Paul Tan said in his homily.

Just like any human creation, the mass media has the potential to do good or evil, he said at the annual Universal Church event which celebrates the achievements of the communications media and focuses on how it can best use them to promote Gospel values.

Speaking to a crowd that included people working in communications, he noted that Pope Francis, in his message for World Communications Day (WCD) this year, focused on the phenomenon of fake news “which threatens to undermine trust and friendship” between people.

“All of us … to different degrees are both the purveyors and the consumers of fake news,” said Fr John-Paul.

“Today’s commemoration invites us to relook at how we communicate with one another”, such as through the use of WhatsApp or email, and also for those who are working in mass media, he said.

Fr Jonh-Paul Tan: 'All of us ... to different degrees are both the purveyors and the consumers of fake news.'

He noted that though people may be outright opposed to lies, some may nevertheless be more comfortable with half-truths.

“Half truths breed gossip, create tension among families and friends and may even undermine our family relationships.

That’s how insidious half-truths can be,” he said.

“Truth, on the other hand, throws light and guides us in our human relationships,” he said. However, truth needs to be tempered by love. “Truth without love can easily end up being oppressive and aggressive,” he added

Fr John-Paul stressed that the mandate that the Church received when Christ ascended to heaven was to go and proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. “What we aim as a Church is to build a civilisation of love for the world,” said Fr John-Paul. “A civilisation of love that is built on truth.”

He noted that every Christian can play a role in using social media in a responsible way.

“Those of us who have Facebook and Twitter – how do we use them to build up a civilisation of love that is based on truth?” he asked, adding that it was important to allow love to moderate one’s tone.

By doing so, “we propose a new language,” he said. “A language that is marked by respect, a language that invites dialogue, a language that is compassionate and merciful, that defines who we are as disciples of Jesus using social media.”

A video showing the communications work of the archdiocese was screened.

The celebration saw media and communications practitioners receiving a special blessing from Mass celebrants Frs John-Paul and Terence Kesavan.

During the Prayer of the Faithful, special prayers were also offered for those involved in social media and mass communications, that they will do their part to “stem fake news and communicate only that which is true and life-giving”.

A special WCD video was also screened, showing the communications work of the archdiocese. 

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