Bullish on Internet´s Role in Evangelization

Counseling, But Not Confession, Seen as Possibility

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VIENNA, Austria, JUNE 7, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Internet offers great potential for evangelization, especially in countries that ban priests, religious and even lay missionaries, said the head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.



At a conference here for journalists and communicators, Archbishop John P. Foley said, "The Internet offers the Church the opportunity to make available to everyone in the world, with access to the Internet, the saving message of Jesus Christ."

To those in restrictive societies, "the Internet can bring to those engaged in a spiritual search or even to those who are merely curious, an opportunity for information and inspiration to which they otherwise would not have access," the archbishop said.

He added, in "a manner that has not yet been fully and formally developed by the Church, the Internet offers an opportunity for dialogue, response to questions, interactive instruction and even pastoral counseling."

He hastened to add that Internet "does not offer the opportunity for online confession, which must always be done in the sacramental context of personal encounter."

Archbishop Foley noted that Internet offers many temptations: "invasion of privacy, violation of copyright, distribution of pornography, exposure to sexual predators and to those interested in larceny."

"There also exists the problem of a type of addiction to the Internet," he said, "in which young people especially can be tempted to spend hours in front of their computer screens in pursuit of unending distraction." However, it "offers more opportunities for good than temptations to evil. It is all a question of how we use it," the archbishop emphasized.

The Pontifical Council for Social Communications is preparing two documents on Internet.

The first, entitled "Ethics in Internet," is addressed to all people of good will. It continues the series of reflections initiated with the documents "Ethics in Advertising," and "Ethics in Communications."

The second document, Archbishop Foley said, "will be devoted to the effective use of the Internet by the Church itself, as a marvelous instrument for evangelization and pastoral service."

Archbishop Foley pointed to the example of the Internet Communications of the Church in Latin America (RIIAL) project as an example of the Church´s use of new technologies.

RIIAL was launched a dozen years ago by the pontifical council and the Latin American bishops´ council (CELAM). At that time, Internet was used by a privileged few, sharing information "from and with Rome, and among the bishops´ conferences and, indeed, dioceses of Latin America," the archbishop said.

RIIAL also developed programs for dioceses and parishes, to offer news services to the Church. ZENIT, in fact, was founded to respond to these needs.