Pope Francis says the internet is “a gift from God” and called on Catholics to “boldly become citizens of the digital world”.
“The internet… offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God,” the Argentine pontiff said in his first World Communication Day message, given annually by the pope.
“Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world.
“Let our communication be a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts.
The 77-year-old pontiff is a keen Twitter user whose account has attracted more than 10 million followers.
But he also makes a point of privileging human relationships and physical touch, often walking among the crowds who flock to see him in St Peter’s Square and embracing the ill or disabled.
“As I have frequently observed, if a choice has to be made between a bruised Church which goes out to the streets and a Church suffering from self-absorption, I certainly prefer the first,” he said.
“Those ‘streets’ are the world where people live and where they can be reached, both effectively and affectively.
“The digital highway is one of them, a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope.”
However, Pope Francis warned people not allow the desire to be connected to the digital world 24 hours a day to isolate them from society.
“It is not enough to be passersby on the digital highways, simply ‘connected’,” he said.
“Connections need to grow into true encounters.”
The Pope denounced the sometimes “violent aggression” of media and communications primarily aimed at promoting consumption or manipulating others.
“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,” he said.
“The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people.”
The Pope also said that while Catholics should cherish and defend their ideas and traditions, they should never be so smug as to claim that “they alone are valid or absolute”.
He again denounced the “scandalous gap” between the rich and poor, saying it was not uncommon to see the homeless sleeping on a street in the glow of opulent store window lights.
– with agencies