24 January 2023

(ANS - Rome) - Interview with the General Councilor for Social Communication, Fr. Gildasio Mendes. The publication of the series of articles by Fr. Gildasio Mendes, General Councilor for Social Communication, on the theme "Don Bosco and digital and virtual reality" continues. In the contribution proposed today, the Feast Day of St. Francis de Sales, the focus is on the Valdocco Oratory: virtual reality and "immersion," a new way of communicating. On January 24 we celebrate with the whole Church the feast day of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of Catholic journalists and writers, titular and patron of the Society of St. Francis de Sales. To give even more meaning to this occasion, we interviewed Fr. Gildasio Mendes, General Councilor for Social Communication, who states: "The Bishop of Geneva and Doctor of the Church was one of the great communicators of the Church and of humanity because he knew how to put the person at the center of the human relationship, listening, dialoguing and creating trust in the relationship with people."  

Fr. Gildasio emphasizes that to communicate today in the digital world and in a society of great social and cultural change, human relationships, the acceptance of the person, and the understanding of their culture and existential place are essential.  He also says that St. Francis is a current reference for a sense of unity in diversity and of the ability to compare different ideas without losing a sense of belonging, fidelity to the Church, and the importance of an ethic that places the person and the community at the center and promotes solidarity and peace.

We invite you, dear readers, to read in full the words of the General Councilor for Social Communication, Fr. Gildasio Mendes.


To begin, Fr. Gildasio, we want to know why it is possible to affirm that St. Francis de Sales is a great communicator.

St. Francis de Sales is first of all the communicator of the loving heart of God. In everything he did and wrote, he emphasizes that God is love, that to communicate is to touch the heart of the human person and to create relationships of trust.

Can we also say that this great Saint continues to speak in a contemporary way? What example can we give on this aspect of communication?

St. Francis was an innovative writer. He knew how to communicate with great inner freedom, simplicity, without fear of the human person, without fear of necessary confrontation. Because he was able to understand the human and spiritual dynamics of people, he is a referential communicator for all generations. One example are his works. His main works are the Introduction to the Devout Life (Philothea), his first pastoral work, which was widely circulated and translated into many languages, and the Treatise on the Love of God, one of the most influential texts in Christian literature and spirituality of the Church.

When we talk about his works, it is possible to understand the power of communication. In your opinion, then, what can we highlight about this characteristic of his, which is present in many of his published works?

He knew how to speak to the heart because he communicated from his own heart. He knew that human relationship based on love and trust helps a person to open up, to self-knowledge, to love and be loved.  When we read his Letters, in a familiar and affective style, we perceive real treasures of spiritual accompaniment and a life of prayer. His homilies and sermons, with a simple, profound, and intimate style, are to this day a spiritual testament for all generations.

We also know that St. Francis de Sales was a great author, and in a very concrete way, he also collaborated in a difficult historical moment for the Church of that time. What can we highlight on this theme? 

St. Francis was a man of unity and communion in the Church. Francis was not afraid of the honest confrontation necessary to evangelize in a context of opposition and controversy. In the cultural diversity and great social change of his time, he had an original vision of evangelizing and being a Christian, always faithful to the Gospel and the Church. He is an example of how to live unity in social and cultural diversity.

As a communicator, but also as a bishop and spiritual father, what stands out in his actions?

Francis wisely handles processes and decisions regarding institutional communication, especially as a bishop, writing letters, documents, texts, defending the teaching of the Church in the face of a context of theological and ecclesial conflict, in his confrontation with Calvinist adversaries, in the difficult decisions he has to make as a bishop.

And to learn more from St. Francis de Sales, what aspects would you highlight in his way of communication?

There are so many, but I would like to list a few that speak volumes for us today, because communication is above all openness to the other, knowing how to discover the central core of the human person, knowing how to create human relationships and trust.

One aspect is knowing how to dialogue with the culture and society of his epoch, which is profoundly Protestant, with human wisdom, openness to dialogue, an evangelical spirit, and decisive fidelity to the Church, and I would also add that communicating is a gift and a commitment, a building up on a human, spiritual and cultural level. Study is also prayer.

St. Francis still teaches us that to communicate is to create an interpersonal relationship. Francis has an immense and multiple network of people with whom he relates and accompanies, he expresses himself through dialogue and manifests great openness to understand the person from his reality, to be open to what is different, without losing serenity and acting with confidence and charity.

At this point, it is important to emphasize that communication stands at the service of charity. For St. Francis de Sales, to love one's neighbor with charity is to love God in man and man in God; it is to be aware of great pastoral and ecclesial, theological, and spiritual responsibility. Communication is also about interreligious dialogue with the artistic wealth and cultural heritage of its people.

Finally, to communicate is to put the person and his community at the center, respecting the rhythm of his culture, human promotion, and personal and social ethics.

Thank you for enriching us with such concrete examples, Fr. Gildasio. And to conclude, on this day dedicated to journalists and social communication workers, what aspect of the "Salesian" way of communication can we put into practice today?

Don Bosco used to say that "education is a thing of the heart." We can say today that communication is a thing of the heart. This was taught to us by St. Francis de Sales and our father Don Bosco. Communicating with the heart means opening a path to find the person in his entirety, making a journey together, creating trust to encourage young people to open up to God, to grow as a human person, loved by God, available to serve others because he loves and is loved. 


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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