Pope Gives Task to Youth: Evangelize the Net

Addresses "Digital Generation" in Communications Message

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 23, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI has an invitation for young Catholics: to bring their faith to the digital world as they have "an almost spontaneous affinity" for using the new means of communication.



The Pope made this exhortation in his message for the May 24 World Communications Day. The message was released today by the Vatican, though it is dated Jan. 24, feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists.

The message is titled with the theme for this year's world day: "New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship."

The Holy Father said his message is particularly geared toward the "so-called digital generation," and aims to "share with them, in particular, some ideas concerning the extraordinary potential of the new technologies, if they are used to promote human understanding and solidarity."

The Pontiff called these new technologies a true "gift to humanity."

Connected world

Benedict XVI noted how cell phones, computers and the Internet permit "almost instantaneous communication of words and images across enormous distances and to some of the most isolated corners of the world; something that would have been unthinkable for previous generations."

He said, "Many benefits flow from this new culture of communication: families are able to maintain contact across great distances; students and researchers have more immediate and easier access to documents, sources and scientific discoveries, hence they can work collaboratively from different locations; moreover, the interactive nature of many of the new media facilitates more dynamic forms of learning and communication, thereby contributing to social progress."

And while the progress of new technologies is "rightly a source of wonder," the Holy Father added, "their popularity with users should not surprise us."

This, he said, is because they respond to a "fundamental desire" of people: the desire to communicate and relate with one another, something rooted in human nature itself.

"When we find ourselves drawn toward other people, when we want to know more about them and make ourselves known to them, we are responding to God’s call -- a call that is imprinted in our nature as beings created in the image and likeness of God, the God of communication and communion," the Pope contended. "[W]hen we open ourselves to others, we are fulfilling our deepest need and becoming more fully human. Loving is, in fact, what we are designed for by our Creator. […]

"In this light, reflecting on the significance of the new technologies, it is important to focus not just on their undoubted capacity to foster contact between people, but on the quality of the content that is put into circulation using these means."

Making friends

Benedict XVI highlighted the "renewed prominence" of the concept of friendship in the vocabulary of digital social networks. While considering friendship one of the "greatest goods any human person can experience," he cautioned against trivializing the concept or experience.

"It would be sad if our desire to sustain and develop on-line friendships were to be at the cost of our availability to engage with our families, our neighbors and those we meet in the daily reality of our places of work, education and recreation," he stated. "If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development."

Finally, the Holy Father made an invitation to "young Catholic believers," encouraging them to "bring the witness of their faith to the digital world."

"Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to introduce into the culture of this new environment of communications and information technology the values on which you have built your lives," he said. "[T]he proclamation of Christ in the world of new technologies requires a profound knowledge of this world if the technologies are to serve our mission adequately.

"It falls, in particular, to young people, who have an almost spontaneous affinity for the new means of communication, to take on the responsibility for the evangelization of this 'digital continent.' Be sure to announce the Gospel to your contemporaries with enthusiasm. You know their fears and their hopes, their aspirations and their disappointments: The greatest gift you can give to them is to share with them the 'Good News' of a God who became man, who suffered, died and rose again to save all people."

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-24879?l=english