In his message for World Communications Day released last week, Pope Francis challenged the faithful to “boldly become citizens of the digital world.”
The technological world of communications is making our world smaller, Pope Francis writes. Amidst the many divisions that exist in the human family, media can help us to feel closer and to embrace solidarity with one another. The internet enhances the “culture of encounter,” and so, according to the Holy Father, it is a gift from God.
Modern methods of communication do not come without their problems. Speed leaves little time for reflection, he writes. People can also be more selective of what media they subscribe to, and their desire for connectivity can isolate them from their neighbors.
This does not mean that all forms of media should be rejected, Pope Francis writes. If we approach the digital world with virtue, with a commitment to times for silence and times for listening, then we can grow in our communicating and use media tools for the good.
The good that the Holy Father sees in electronic communication is the power for “neighborliness”:
…It is not enough to be passersby on the digital highways, simply “connected”; connections need to grow into true encounters. We cannot live apart, closed in on ourselves. We need to love and to be loved. We need tenderness. Media strategies do not ensure beauty, goodness and truth in communication. The world of media also has to be concerned with humanity, it too is called to show tenderness. The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people. The impartiality of media is merely an appearance; only those who go out of themselves in their communication can become a true point of reference for others. Personal engagement is the basis of the trustworthiness of a communicator. Christian witness, thanks to the internet, can thereby reach the peripheries of human existence.
We as the faithful are called to reach out to those we encounter in the streets, the “digital highway” included. Through internet connections, Pope Francis is convinced that the Church can spread the Gospel message “to the ends of the earth” (Act 1:8). This does not necessarily mean bombarding people with our own messages, but rather a radical availability and openness to dialogue:
Let our communication be a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts…Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world. The Church needs to be concerned for, and present in, the world of communication, in order to dialogue with people today and to help them encounter Christ. She needs to be a Church at the side of others, capable of accompanying everyone along the way. The revolution taking place in communications media and in information technologies represents a great and thrilling challenge; may we respond to that challenge with fresh energy and imagination as we seek to share with others the beauty of God.
Blessed John Paul II urged us to take part in a New Evangelization, renewing our efforts in proclaiming the Gospel to all who seek Christ. We can do this in many ways: through our personal relationships, through our witness, and through our prayers. Another way is by boldly becoming citizens of the digital world, as Pope Francis challenges us to do.
Let us declare citizenship today, then, hit the digital highway, and preach the Gospel!