In an age when you can go to church online, and no doubt teenagers tweet during Mass, Pope Benedictus XVI used this year's World Communication Day address to extol the potential of social media and give guidance to Roman Catholics on how to use it in a Christian manner.
The pope told his followers - religious not social - "to communicate with integrity and honesty" and that "the truth of Christ is the full and authentic response to that human desire for relationship, communion and meaning which is reflected in the immense popularity of social networks".
The address reflects a good understanding of the web and social media, and impressive skill at bringing Christian thought into a digital perspective. "There exists a Christian way of being present in the digital world: this takes the form of a communication which is honest and open, responsible and respectful of others," the pope stated..
"The task of witnessing to the Gospel in the digital era calls for everyone to be particularly attentive to the aspects of that message which can challenge some of the ways of thinking typical of the web. First of all, we must be aware that the truth which we long to share does not derive its worth from its "popularity" or from the amount of attention it receives. We must make it known in its integrity, instead of seeking to make it acceptable or diluting it. It must become daily nourishment and not a fleeting attraction," the address states.
His Holiness asked "patron Saint Francis de Sales" to help communication workers to do their jobs with integrity and invited young people "to make good use of their presence in the digital world."
"I would like then to invite Christians, confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, to join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible. This is not simply to satisfy the desire to be present, but because this network is an integral part of human life. The web is contributing to the development of new and more complex intellectual and spiritual horizons, new forms of shared awareness. In this field too we are called to proclaim our faith that Christ is God, the Saviour of humanity and of history, the one in whom all things find their fulfilment." the pope stated.
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