Evangelization Is a Challenge in Digital World, Says Official

Archbishop Celli Notes Need for a "Language That Can Be Understood"

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ROME, MAY 5, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Evangelization in a world of communications technology is the biggest challenge the Vatican is facing today, according to the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.



Archbishop Claudio Celli said this at a study day organized by Italian Catholic Action, leading up to this weekend's national assembly.

"The new technologies place us before unimaginable possibilities," the archbishop said.

The Vatican is taking steps to rise to the challenge. Last Monday, it hosted a meeting for bloggers, and Archbishop Celli noted another meeting held for Twitter users.

The 69-year-old prelate spoke of it as a phase of learning.

He pointed to a problem that bloggers trying to defend the faith are sometimes "unable to establish a dialogue."

This is a very important point, he stressed, because the "Pope does not invite us to proselytism or to a form of aggressive defense of what we believe."

Not just words

Archbishop Celli said Catholic communicators need to be aware of belonging to a Church "that does not just engage in communication but that is communication -- not of intellectual concepts, as if it were an ideology, but essentially communication of the love of God, of a God who loves man and seeks him with tireless love."

Sadly, "there still exists in the Church an instrumental view of the media," even though John Paul II already understood "that the new technologies were generating a new culture," the prelate claimed.

This new culture is reflected in the example of 400,000 primary school children in Uruguay studying on laptops, the archbishop proposed.

"From first grade," he said, "they learn to relate to and to know one another through the computer. To find out something they go to Wikipedia, and they connect from home with their friends. A child who lives in connection with others, for example, understands better what it means to be in communication." And he will also be able "to understand better what the Mystical Body of Christ is" because he will understand better what it means to be in communication with the Church.

Nevertheless, the Vatican official cautioned, a paradox exists, because "while one is connected, at the same time one is very alone."

Problem

How well is the Church able to communicate and proclaim the Gospel in this digital culture?

That is the basic problem, according to Archbishop Celli.

"We should ask ourselves to what degree we minister in the digital realm, and we have to understand outright that we are still lacking in this regard," he said. "To what degree do we know how to dialogue with the digital culture, with the youthful reality." This is "the greatest challenge we are facing."

To meet it, the Church needs the language of the culture, which implies more than just technology, he suggested.

What is entailed is a "cultural mediation in the context of this digital world," which requires "an anthropological dimension of language," Archbishop Celli said.

"It is necessary to understand the problems of the man of today," otherwise there can be technological initiatives that are beautiful, but ineffective, the prelate warned. There must be "a language that can be well understood, which succeeds in bearing within it the message of the Gospel."