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"What Is Communication for the Church?"


Address to the Congress of the Hellenic Society of Public Relations, January 2002

I heartily thank all of you who wished to be here with me upon this day as well as your Administrative Council for its kind invitation. I shall try to be equal to the expectations that are raised by your Society’s history as well as by that of your profession by daring to speak to you and thus sharing some of my speculations and anxieties. I am going to make reference to some issues and not to certainties as I feel like a man who the more he advances so much more does he become aware that what is being accomplished tends to be smaller in relation to what should be done.

First and foremost, I wish to explain to you that the Clergyman feels weak, that he is literally helpless – which means to be at a loss without any means and might. He has to accomplish something that is quite beyond him: to act in such a way, that he as a person, shall try to bring mankind in communion with almighty God. It’s quite inconceivable to suppose that there is an efficient manner to do this; that there exists such a mechanism that shall help him in succeeding. In order to be a clergyman, one ought to learn to abandon oneself; to leave oneself in the loving hands of God. As it’s only thanks to that love which has the power to overcome death, that all of us bear within us, that we are able to overcome our helplessness and to be redeemed from the bondage of life’s tear and wear.

Even though he feels baffled, the chaplain comes out and speaks from the pulpit. The pulpit is a distinguished jutting out position that is visible to all even from far away – the mountain-edge is a good example for the pulpit. The clergyman is well aware that one can’t get on the Pulpit and be not visible to all; not to be the subject everybody’s talk. But the first thing that the other one shall notice, even before he listens to you, is just that feeling of yours of being unequal to your job of speaking about what you wish. Who are you that is going to tell us what God wants? This is the question that the priest hears nagging at him as he is going up the pulpit. And I can assure you that you can’t go on being a chaplain if you’re not in a position to own up to the fact that you are a nobody and that your sole hope – for I would not say strength – lies in the acknowledgement of a similar awareness.

And now, here come the Bishop: a clergyman whose self-same faith puts him in Jesus Christ’s position; hence, a person who not only feels awkward but who is also one that feels that he more than offends that which he believes in. Yet, who nevertheless should direct spiritually and administratively the Church – the Lord’s people. It’s with these conditions and with these prerequisites that we have come here today, near to you, so as to share with you a part of our anxieties.

As a clergyman, I should speak from a pulpit, which means that I am exposed whether this be inside a Cathedral or in some amiable and pleasant quarters as these of today. He who believes that one can speak from the pulpit, as an overweening teacher is unwise for there’s nothing that’s more evident and that one doesn’t become aware of , as soon as possible, when one is speaking from the pulpit than the nakedness of one’s hubris. We feel sorry that I belong to a generation that has been educated in such a way so as to mistake bombast for dramatics and inanity for oratory. I wish to believe that the next generation shall get over it and that it shall be able to speak without heroics but with the plainness and lucidity of light.

As a clergyman, I should speak from the pulpit not celebrating faith’s value, in the abstract and vaguely and not in such a manner so that you might accept the fact that the Church plays a serious role in our society; not even trying to convince you that I have the right to interfere with matters that concern the people, the laity, and that my interferences, in last analysis, are positive and, again, not so much as to convince you to become simply good people.

I should address you asking for a radical change in the orientation of life; asking of man to become aware of the fact that the more one “tries to set-up one’s life” so much more does he create his bonds; asking him to leave his face in the loving hands of God, for it’s only His love that can give one’s sight. I should speak to you, asking you to feel along with me Christmas, not as a holiday-period, but as the interruption of the tear and wear and of death and as an event that represents the unique Birth that leads on to the bright Resurrection!

But it’s of no sense my talking with my ears closed. For whatever I have to say should be a part of my ministration; it should be a part of my responsibility for the joys and sorrows, for the dreams and the disappointments, for the expectations and the dangers of all of us of the Church of the people of God that is the ‘Ecclesia,’ the Church militant.

God doesn’t speak with the angel’s nonchalance. God speaks showing us man’s suffering. Listen to the Sermon on the Mount with which He sets out on His mission. There isn’t formulated any advice to distantiate ourselves from man so as to approach God; there’s only a warning to the intent that the distancing of ourselves from man constitutes indifference for the other’s pain and as a consequence contempt of God! The Sermon on the Mount teaches us that one can’t talk unless it is with one’s head bowed. In case you don’t stoop over the other’s problem your word shall be empty, it’s “as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal”.

But the question that rises is: How can you bend over the other without being weighed down and hindered by your apparel? How can you hear him by dodging the issue, your way, your opinions about this and that? Isn’t that self-same endeavor to listen to him – as that is what it’s expected of you to do – an inhibitive factor?

Such questions are valid for everybody. They should lead each and every one of us to that consciousness of one’s helplessness. We know that when I speak I externate ourselves and that we listen according to our criteria. That self-same communication event occurs – whenever it is and as it happens -in an uproarious atmosphere which dissolves every form of attention and concentration. How can one by-pass the obstacles brought about by our nature?

Clergymen have yet more sore experiences. For we see that the promises do not correspond with the deeds: even those self-same vestments, that bear on them dense symbolics as well as a living tradition many-a-time prevent others from talking to you. Quite often we notice that the care corroborating the Church shuts the ears of many and as such it does not allow them to think that it’s the job of the Church do be consumed, for only thus it’s strengthened. We see that there are certain actions and options of man that require such an approach that cannot be accomplished without clashing with accepted moral ways of behaviour. We shall remind you of a simple case: Once, when I said that I was not concerned as to how young men dress, as their place is in the Church, certain circles reacted vehemently. However, if because of a torn pair of blue-jeans or an ear-ring worn on the ear, a young man is placed “extra Ecclesiam” how is it, then, going to be possible for us to hear his problem? How can you really hear one when it’s the taboos that determine what you’re allowed to listen to.

So, once again, we find ourselves faced with a radical weakness of man: for he’s not only unable to enter into communion with God but he is equally unable to communicate with his next-door neighbour, with his fellow-man. Is it then possible that God has given us a commandment that we do not have the force to put into effect?

The problem’s solution lies again in the acceptance of our weakness, again in the abandonment. For the faithful, it’s obvious that the impossibility of real communication is due to the fact that even Man tries “ to find one’s feet”, that he tries to be equal to the occasion and that as a victim of one’s self-deception believes that it lies in one’s power to succeed! However, the faithful understand that it’s only with the Love of God that we can overcome our weakness. Consequently when from our word, love is lacking for him who hears us and when we listen but, again, without having love in our ears there shall never exist a veritable communication.

Maybe, it might prove helpful if I was to put it in other words: Communication is possible only as a product of respect towards the other as well as one of interest for him. Hence, the message is not to be found only in what we say but also in the way and in the why we speak. So the principal element of the message is its manner, which is no other than our disposition towards one another.

It’s within the said framework that should be framed the Church’s communication policy. We have need for a means of communication that shall not be composed of techniques aiming at detaching the public’s attention but at trying to make us all feel just this: common, Community. We have need for a policy that shall not be composed of methodical handling but of one in which we exercise our attention in what our neighbour has to say to us. These are the basic presuppositions so that the Sermon might stop being a self-complacent monologue and that it should become that which it should be : the expression of our attachment, of our dedication to our neighbour. In order that such a Communication Policy might be realized there’s need not only of time but also of the people’s pressure. There should be made a great turn towards the essence of Christianity and that is something that neither the clergy can decide upon, nor can the Bishops impose for it’s something that shall be undertaken and that needs to be supported both by the Clergy and the Laity. If We were not to succeed in doing this then I shall simply end in scandalizing the people and in such a case our punishment would promptly ensue.

And it’s just because of this that I should accept criticism as a blessing, no matter how hard it might be. It shouldn’t be unfair; it shouldn’t be an accusation; it shouldn’t be half-baked but it should be hard criticism. And such I retain is primarily the criticism of the younger generation for we observe that the Young exercise criticism demanding genuineness and essence. It’s the objective of the Communication Policy to maintain such requests alive.

Both the Clergy and the Laity should grow aware of the fact that the sole master of moral conscience is the exceeding of ethics by love and that morality without love isn’t a life-saver but a weight. It’s in our hand to have Moral Behaviour; it depends on us to be good people that care for the sick. There’s no need to be a Christian in order to be a moral and a good person. A Christian does that which doesn’t depend from him to do; a Christian dedicates himself and loves his neighbour being conscious that it’s something out of his hand to love and that it doesn’t depend from him to be truly devoted and loyal.

The clergy and the laity should feel that our brother has fallen down there and that he is seriously wounded; it’s not our job to explain to him that and that he acted wrongly in taking that road. Our work is to dress up his injuries, to clean up his face and with our love to bring to his place the Light of the Lord’s Resurrection.

All of us speak about the sublime value of Orthodoxy – there’s nothing the matter with that. We all speak about tradition’s unique value – there’s nothing wrong with this, also. But, I am in errour if I believe that what I am looking for are all these declarations. We have ecclesiastical publications, a radio-station , an Internet unit. The extent of their success may be judged by how much they serve the promotion of the Communication Policy, that I wished to develop to you; from how distant they are from the useless vanity and self-affirmation for what concerns the importance of Orthodoxy and the question when shall Faith become the imitation of Him and when shall the good deed give way to Love.-

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