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This year’s theme is ‘Listening with the ear of the heart’, and Pope Francis looks at communication from the perspective of the person who is addressed. The Pope writes, “On the one hand, God always reveals himself by communicating freely; and on the other hand, man and woman are asked to tune in, to be willing to listen. Fundamentally, listening is a dimension of love.” He goes on to say, “We all have ears, but many times even those with perfect hearing are unable to hear another person. In fact, there is an interior deafness worse than the physical one. Indeed, listening concerns the whole person, not just the sense of hearing. The true seat of listening is the heart. Though he was very young, King Solomon proved himself wise because he asked the Lord to grant him a “listening heart”. Saint Augustine used to encourage listening with the heart, to receive words not outwardly through the ears, but spiritually in our hearts: “Do not have your heart in your ears, but your ears in your heart”. Saint Francis of Assisi exhorted his brothers to “incline the ear of the heart”. Near the end of his letter the Pope pens, “the Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us that the first service we owe to others in communion consists in listening to them. Whoever does not know how to listen to his brother or sister will soon no longer be able to listen to God either.”

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