VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI is asking everyone to quiet down.
In his annual communications message released Tuesday, Benedict extolled the sounds of silence. He said a little bit of quiet makes people better listeners and better communicators by giving them more time to think about what they're hearing and saying.
And in a world inundated by Tweets and 24-hour news coverage, that precious time to think and reflect makes words have greater value, he said.
"Joy, anxiety and suffering can all be communicated in silence — indeed it provides them with a particularly powerful mode of expression," he said in his written message.
Benedict has in recent years used his annual communications message to comment on social media, urging priests to blog and Catholics who spread the faith on Facebook and other social networks to be respectful.
This year, his attention turned to the need to tune out the social media information overload to allow time for greater reflection. He called for striking a balance between silence, words, images and sounds.
"By remaining silent, we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself, and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested," he said.
And he noted that sometimes the most authentic communication takes place in utter silence, "between people who are in love: gestures, facial expressions and body language are signs by which they reveal themselves to each other."
Silence also allows for greater discernment about what is really worth listening to, Benedict said. And of course, it allows for prayer, contemplation and silent conversation with God.
Benedict, for example, has marveled during recent trips to Croatia and Madrid for World Youth Day at the ability of tens of thousands of people gathered in outdoor fields and piazzas for prayers to go absolutely silent in contemplation.
Benedict, 84, is known to be quiet by nature. A theologian and lover of classical music, he speaks softly and is said to be an excellent listener.