Pope Francis: The Internet “Something Truly good, a Gift from God.”

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on January 28, 2014

in Pope Francis

Let-us-boldly-becomeOn January 24, the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, the Vatican released Pope Francis’ 2014 message for World Communications Day which occurs on June 1. This year’s message is entitled Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter.

In this message Pope Francis applies one of his most common themes to the Internet and social media: the importance of engaging the person by listening and seeking to understand their needs and points of view even when they differ from our own.

As part of the message, Pope Francis asks and then answers two questions:

Question: What is it, then, that helps us, in the digital environment, to grow in humanity and mutual understanding?

Answer: This calls for time and the ability to be silent and to listen. We need also to be patient if we want to understand those who are different from us. People only express themselves fully when they are not merely tolerated, but know that they are truly accepted. If we are genuinely attentive in listening to others, we will learn to look at the world with different eyes and come to appreciate the richness of human experience as manifested in different cultures and traditions. We will also learn to appreciate more fully the important values inspired by Christianity, such as the vision of the human person, the nature of marriage and the family, the proper distinction between the religious and political spheres, the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, and many others.

Question: How can we be “neighborly” in our use of the communications media and in the new environment created by digital technology?

Answer: I find an answer in the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is also a parable about communication. Those who communicate, in effect, become neighbors. The Good Samaritan not only draws nearer to the man he finds half dead on the side of the road; he takes responsibility for him. Jesus shifts our understanding: it is not just about seeing the other as someone like myself, but of the ability to make myself like the other. Communication is really about realizing that we are all human beings, children of God. I like seeing this power of communication as “neighborliness”.

I especially liked two other statements in the message:

1) By means of the internet, the Christian message can reach “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Keeping the doors of our churches open also means keeping them open in the digital environment so that people, whatever their situation in life, can enter, and so that the Gospel can go out to reach everyone. We are called to show that the Church is the home of all. Are we capable of communicating the image of such a Church? Communication is a means of expressing the missionary vocation of the entire Church; today the social networks are one way to experience this call to discover the beauty of faith, the beauty of encountering Christ. In the area of communications too, we need a Church capable of bringing warmth and of stirring hearts.

2) Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world. The Church needs to be concerned for, and present in, the world of communication, in order to dialogue with people today and to help them encounter Christ. She needs to be a Church at the side of others, capable of accompanying everyone along the way. The revolution taking place in communications media and in information technologies represents a great and thrilling challenge; may we respond to that challenge with fresh energy and imagination as we seek to share with others the beauty of God.

You can read the complete document on the Vatican website.

What strikes you about the Pope’s view of communication media and information technology in today’s Church?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sister Pat Sylvester, SND January 28, 2014 at 9:21 am

Love his words. Pope Francis has truly “baptized” the Internet!

Melannie Svoboda, SND January 28, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Susan, I especially liked the last sentence…that we must view the revolution in technology as a “thrilling challenge.” Not a “difficult” challenge…not “an exhausting” challenge….not an “unfortunate” challenge…not a “grave” challenge”–but a thrilling one! What a positive attitude! I hope I can embrace that attitude more and more. Thank you, Susan, for extracting these fine quotations for our pondering! Melannie

Sr. Angela Ann January 29, 2014 at 7:26 am

Thanks, Susan. As always it is good to see your postings that inspire us!
It is interesting to observe the evolving disposition of the Vatican regarding communications not only since Communio et Progressio and Aetatis Novae but the other PCSC documents appear in the 90’s.
There definitely is a greater receptivity to the evolving forms of media (digital) and the Church’s engagement with them. What we need now is for Church communicators to creatively take the lead and not simply to follow what everyone else is doing – and – to explore a more robust presence as a community of communicators! Just a thought this morning! SAAZ

Sr Judith February 19, 2014 at 10:18 am

Am very behind the times having only just read this! I found it hugely encouraging throughout. I liked the sense of possibility, and the encouragement to embrace and delight in the challenge and opportunity of this. I also like the idea of using digital media in a neighbourly way and to “relieve” pain and “gladden hearts”.

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