Father Lombardi: "Blessed" Be the Internet

Urges Online Evangelization for the Digital Generation

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 19, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The director of the Vatican press office is affirming the importance of the Internet as a tool for delivering the Gospel message to people in many different situations.



Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi stated this Monday at the Westminster diocesan seminary in an address to media professionals on the occasion of World Communications Day, which will be celebrated Sunday.

The priest underlined Benedict XVI's call to reach out to the "digital generation," a press release from the bishops' conference of England and Wales reported today.

In the address, published on the Web site of the Catholic Communications Network, Father Lombardi noted the importance of using "traditional technologies and forms of communication" that are "still necessary to serve a large part of humanity."

"At the same time," he added, "we cannot but be attentive to the direction in which communications are moving nor can we allow ourselves to fall out of touch with the latest advancements in the world of communications."

Drawing on his experience as a Vatican spokesperson, he recalled recent criticisms by the media against the Pope, including his "Regensburg discourse, the bishop Williamson affair, or the controversy over [his] statements regarding condoms and the spread of HIV and AIDS in Africa."

"It is a mistake to think that we ought to avoid debate," he stated. "We must always seek to conduct debate in a way that leads to a better understanding of the Church's position -- and we must never get discouraged."

Presence

Father Lombardi referenced recent changes in social communications, noting that the Internet has multiplied the number of voices spreading information. In this environment, he said, it is important to "maintain sound points of reference in the flow of communications in the world."

He highlighted the Pontiff's message for World Communications Day, stating: "The Pope knows that the Church will be an efficacious presence in the world that is taking shape only to the extent that she succeeds in keeping the truths of the faith in close touch with the emerging culture and the younger, growing generations. This is why he puts such emphasis on relationships."

The challenge in keeping a strong presence in the culture, the press office director noted, is focusing not only on content distribution, but "greater and greater interactivity."

He challenged the media professionals, saying: "In our service to the Church, we need to be constantly asking ourselves whether the limits and defects of our own communications skills in any given moment are making it more difficult for others to understand the Church's message, so that they reject it, or whether the message itself is being rejected, even though it has been understood -- or precisely because it has been understood."

The Jesuit continued: "We cannot fool ourselves into thinking that a perfect communications strategy could ever make it possible for us to communicate every message the Church has to offer in a way that avoids contradiction and conflict.

"Truth be told, success in this sense would be a bad sign -- at the very least, it would indicate ambiguity or compromise, rather than authentic communication."

Communion

The goal, Father Lombardi said, is to "further the construction of a culture of respect, of dialogue and friendship, and to place the immense potential of contemporary communications in the service of communion in the Church and of the unity of the whole human family."

The priest closed with a memory of a moment in which he worked to televise a youth gathering with Pope John Paul II, so that other European cities could take part through two-way satellite links.

After the Pontiff exchanged greetings with the young people in other cities, he exclaimed: "What a marvelous thing is this television! I can see and speak with my young people in Krakow as though they were right here. Blessed be television!"

Father Lombardi affirmed that despite "all the terrible, awful things that television does," it can be used for good, to create communion, and "it can truly be blessed."

This is our vocation, he stated, "to make sure that the press, the radio and television are tools and paths toward blessedness."

The priest challenged his listeners to work harder "so that we might be able to say with greater and greater conviction: the Internet is truly blessed!"

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On the Net:

Full text: http://www.catholicchurch.org.uk/ccb/catholic_church/media_centre2/press_releases/press_releases_2009/vatican_communications_chief_encourages_use_of_new_media_for_positive_interactivity