In recent years, the popes’ messages for World Communications Day have addressed in different ways the growing importance of the digital world in everyday life. The messages encourage engagement in social media for the “sake of the gospel” and urge pastors and those in pastoral ministry to be active ministers on the Internet. Pope Benedict’s message for 2013 stresses the importance of this engagement even more emphatically. He urges us not just to acknowledge the digital world, but to seek to understand it and to embrace it as an important environment for ministry. He writes:
Believers are increasingly aware that, unless the Good News is made known also in the digital world, it may be absent in the experience of many people for whom this existential space is important. The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young. Social networks are the result of human interaction, but for their part they also reshape the dynamics of communication which builds relationships: a considered understanding of this environment is therefore the prerequisite for a significant presence there.
In his document , Social Networks: Portals of Truth and Faith; New Spaces for Evangelization, Pope Benedict shared his own deeper understanding of the digital environment for ministry. Here are some of the ideas that I take away from this document:
Forming relationships through dialogue and caring responses is essential to ministry on social networks.
We must recognize and value the cultural diversity present in the digital world.
The inclusivity that is sought online will be incomplete if believers absent themselves from the digital world.
Social networks are a means of evangelization, but also a factor in human development.
We must constantly discern the voice of God on social networks even when divisive voices and sensationalism seem to prevail.
We can trust that the basic human desires for love, meaning and truth which are evident in so many online communications can lead to an openness to faith—a living, authentic faith in Jesus Christ, to which we believers can give unique testimony.
What do you think about these ideas? Do you resonate with one more than the others? Did you find anything else in the document which impressed you? Please share your thoughts below.
This year World Communications Day occurs on May 12. Here is the link to Pope Benedict’s 47th World Communications Day Message.