Archbishop Richard Smith addresses members of local media at St. Joseph Seminary May 4.

Archbishop Richard Smith addresses members of local media at St. Joseph Seminary May 4.

May16, 2016

Archbishop Richard Smith has praised the mass media response to the Fort McMurray fires.

Smith noted the media have made the fires their main topic and have offered concrete assistance to the evacuees, serving as bulletin boards for those looking for their loved ones and those who want to volunteer.

"In this particular instance what we are seeing is the extraordinary potential of the communications media to do good and to respond in an instantaneous fashion to an emergent need," the archbishop said during his annual breakfast with local reporters at St. Joseph Seminary May 4.

When people started to evacuate, "the media had the capacity to accompany them and to be an agent of bridge-building, of bringing people together and be of assistance."

This response powerfully underscores the message Pope Francis wants to convey on World Communications Day, Smith said.

"He wants to highlight the connection between communications generally and the concept of mercy. And in that context what he highlights is the power of good, effective communication to bring people together, to be an agent for the good."


World Communications Day is celebrated each year on the Sunday before Pentecost, which this year is May 8.

The choice of theme this year was determined by the Celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.

In his message - Communication and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter - Pope Francis reflects on the synergy between communication and mercy.

"In a broken, fragmented and polarized world, to communicate with mercy means to help create a healthy, free and fraternal closeness between the children of God and all our brothers and sisters in the one human family," the pope says.

Every year the archdiocese marks World Communications Day with a morning Breakfast with the Archbishop.

Print, television and radio journalists enjoy a traditional bacon and eggs breakfast with Smith and then listen to his reflection on the pope's annual message.

"He is speaking from a global perspective but if we look at some of the specific things that he says it's very, very clear that it has some local impact," Smith said.

The pope speaks about the power of words to heal and to build bridges. Smith said the opposite is also true: words can be used to destroy, to put up barriers and to harm.


As he was reading that passage, the archbishop said his thoughts went to the young people of Attawapiskat, where many young people have attempted to commit suicide.

He also noted Chief Tony Alexis recently brought to the pope his concern about suicides among his own people in the Treaty Six area.

"This raises the (following) question for me: What words were spoken to those young people that led them to think that their lives are no longer worth living? And on the opposite side: What words could have been spoken, what words can be spoken to them now to help them understand the worth of their lives?

"So when we see the pope say that we need to choose our words carefully and infuse them with mercy, situations like this make it clear rather quickly that this is not just mere theorizing but it's got some potentially life and death consequences."