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The message all begins with Jesus Christ

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In these rancorous and troubled times, there is nothing like a good and positive message to warm the heart with wonderful and cherished family, friends, parishioners and concerned citizens. But the message all begins with Jesus Christ.

Ray
Flynn

Pope John Paul II's annual message on World Communication Day at the Vatican was always one of my favorite days of the year in Rome. After listening to the pope, I would often have lunch at my residence with the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Cardinal John Foley, who was a brilliant communicator and former editor of the Catholic Standard newspaper in Philadelphia.

The reason I enjoyed this day was simple. Not only was the pope such an inspiring spiritual voice, but one of our century's most courageous and effective leaders. I saw this personally in his conversations and communications with political leaders like Gorbachev, Walesa, Castro, and Jaruzleski. Maybe it was also because of my long-time interest in foreign affairs that I followed world political events closely, especially the Cold War. I often heard seasoned career diplomats refer to the Vatican as "the world's most important listening post." Ambassador Bill Wilson, who served as ambassador under President Ronald Reagan, once told me that the president would say that when you need to know what's going on in a communist or some isolated country in the world, Vatican diplomats can often provide helpful information.

Well, just the other day, Pope Francis delivered his message for the 50th World Communications Day. He advised that, when we speak, we should be "inspired by mercy" and to watch "what we say and how we say it." Speaking specifically to "those with institutional and political responsibility," the Holy Father urged them, "to remain especially attentive to the way they speak of those who think or act differently." He said, "It is easy to yield to the temptation to exploit such situations to stoke the flames of mistrust, fear and hatred. Instead, courage is needed to guide people towards processes of reconciliation." He didn't specifically mention any particular country or politician, but it wasn't lost on many that he might have been referring to the political and religious division in the world today.

But the pope's timely message would be just the beginning of a meaningful week of profound messages and speeches. Boston Mayor Martin Walsh eloquently and passionately stressed the need for "unity" in his annual State of the City Address to the people of Boston -- the greatest challenge any mayor of a large and diverse city has to face. And, after Gov. Charles Baker delivered his first State of the State speech at the State House, I heard leaders from both political parties in the Democrat dominated House and Senate expressing their highest respect for the Republican governor, and the governor expressing the same level of respect for them.

But my special week of inspiration was not yet over. At Mass on Saturday at St. Brigid Church in South Boston, we heard a marvelous homily from Msgr. Liam Bergin, whom I came to know well while living in Rome. We always looked forward to attending special Irish Catholic feast days at the Pontifical Irish College where Msgr. Liam served in various leadership capacities. Following his sermon Saturday afternoon, it wasn't too cold for several of the faithful to stand outside church to reflect on the message in the Gospel and our Irish friend's brilliant and inspiring homily.

In these rancorous and troubled times, there is nothing like a good and positive message to warm the heart with wonderful and cherished family, friends, parishioners and concerned citizens. But the message all begins with Jesus Christ.

RAY FLYNN IS THE FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE VATICAN AND MAYOR OF BOSTON.

Raymond L. Flynn is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and Mayor of Boston.

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