Pope: Social Networking Essential to Modern Evangelization

In keeping with the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI’s World Communications Day message for 2013 says the virtual world of social networking can’t be ignored if we want to spread the faith to the next generation, and cautions users to be more respectful and less provocative on-line.

The Associated Press is reporting that the pope, who currently tweets in nine languages and has amassed more than two million Twitter followers, used the new message to encourage the faithful to become engaged in the virtual world in order to attract new followers of Christ and combat the antipathy and Church scandals that have driven so many people away in recent years.

“The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young,” Benedict said in his message.

“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.”

The message also repeated pleas from previous years for more respectful dialogue online.

Monsigor Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told reporters during a briefing that the Pope is calling for a more humane culture online by being respectful toward others and using this technology to contribute to the growth and wellbeing of individuals and society.

Very often in new media “the more provocative I am, the more strident, the more extreme I am in my views, the more attention I get”, he said, according to the UK’s Catholic Herald.

But the Pope “is calling for the importance of the quiet voice of reason; we need moderation, reason and logic otherwise our debates are going nowhere”.

As he says in the message, “Dialogue and debate can also flourish and grow when we converse with and take seriously people whose ideas are different from our own.”

But this must be done with sincerity. “Given the reality of cultural diversity, people need not only to accept the existence of the culture of others, but also to aspire to be enriched by it and to offer to it whatever they possess that is good, true and beautiful,” the pope said in his 2010 Address at the Meeting with the World of Culture.

“The challenge facing social networks is how to be truly inclusive: thus they will benefit from the full participation of believers who desire to share the message of Jesus and the values of human dignity which his teaching promotes,” he wrote, adding that people of faith can bring Jesus to others “by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence.”

This can be done through social media if we “trust in the fact that the basic human desire to love and to be loved, and to find meaning and truth – a desire which God himself has placed in the heart of every man and woman – keeps our contemporaries ever open to … the ‘kindly light’ of faith.”

Click here to read the Pope’s message.

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