Speaking on the Holy Father’s Message for the 43rd World Day of Social Communications, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, explained that the Pope’s message delves into the realm of new technology as a “gift to humanity” and discusses the importance of quality relationships and outreach to young people.
The 43rd World Day of Social Communications will be celebrated on May 24 and will focus on the theme “New Technologies, New Relationships: Promoting a culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship." At a Vatican City press conference this morning, Archbishop Celli discussed the Pope Benedict’s message which was published today in English, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and German.
In his remarks Archbishop Celli underlined the fact that this year's message represents "a real watershed" because "the theme itself guides us along the path of novelty, not only by focusing on new technologies but by exploring their effects. It does so by addressing the 'digital generation', thus appealing directly to the young."
The Holy Father’s message praised the young people’s ability to link new media with their desire to be connected to others. They turn to this technology “as means of communicating with existing friends, of meeting new friends, of forming communities and networks, of seeking information and news, and of sharing their ideas and opinions,” the Pope wrote.
By seeking out others and opening ourselves up to them, Pope Benedict continued, “we are fulfilling our deepest need and becoming more fully human. Loving is, in fact, what we are designed for by our Creator."
The Pope also had some words of caution for the latest means of communication. Users should focus not just on the capacity technologies have to foster contact between people, but also on the quality of the content that is put into circulation using these means, he said. “I would encourage all people of good will who are active in the emerging environment of digital communication to commit themselves to promoting a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship,” the Pope added.
The Holy Father spoke directly of the importance of friendships and cautions against replacing our families and neighbors with online relationships. “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.”
"Truly, we are facing a new world," Archbishop Celli remarked. A world "to be explored not by opening our eyes in amazement before new technological advances, but by opening our hearts and giving room to hope in the face of the great possibilities for the common good opening before us. This is even more important if we consider that the Message also examines certain dangers, associated not just with media distortion but with inequality in the uses to which the media may be put. One is reminded of that 'digital divide' which cannot but be a cause for concern, precisely because the new technologies must be considered as primary resources for human development and promotion."
In the Holy Father’s message he both warned of the dangers of internet and also encourages the good that may come from it. In particular he spoke against the “sharing of words and images that are degrading to humans, that promote hatred and intolerance, that debase the goodness and intimacy of human sexuality or that exploit the weak and vulnerable.”
He also called on young people to use new technology for evangelization by encouraging them “to bring the witness of their faith to the digital world.”
"The 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,” he continued. “It falls, in particular, to young people ... to take on the responsibility for the evangelization of this 'digital continent'. Be sure to announce the Gospel to your contemporaries with enthusiasm."
The archbishop concluded his comments on the Pope's new message, saying, “Never before, perhaps, has a Message been so powerful but also so challenging."
Below are excerpts from the Holy Father’s message.
For the full text of the message, click here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/document.php?n=787
"The new digital technologies are bringing about fundamental shifts in patterns of communication and human relationships. ... In this year's message, I am conscious of those who constitute the so-called 'digital generation' and I would like 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. These technologies are truly a gift to humanity and we must endeavor to ensure that the benefits they offer are put at the service of all human individuals and communities, especially those who are most disadvantaged and vulnerable."
"Young people, in particular, have grasped the enormous capacity of the new media to foster connectedness, communication and understanding between individuals and communities, and they are turning to them as means of communicating with existing friends, of meeting new friends, of forming communities and networks, of seeking information and news, and of sharing their ideas and opinions."
"The desire for connectedness and the instinct for communication that are so obvious in contemporary culture are best understood as modern manifestations of the basic and enduring propensity of humans to reach beyond themselves and to seek communion with others. In reality, when 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."
"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. I would encourage all people of good will who are active in the emerging environment of digital communication to commit themselves to promoting a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship.
"Those who are active in the production and dissemination of new media content, therefore, should strive to respect the dignity and worth of the human person. If the new technologies are to serve the good of individuals and of society, all users will avoid the sharing of words and images that are degrading of human beings, that promote hatred and intolerance, that debase the goodness and intimacy of human sexuality or that exploit the weak and vulnerable.
"The new technologies have also opened the way for dialogue between people from different countries, cultures and religions. The new digital arena, the so-called cyberspace, allows them to encounter and to know each other's traditions and values. Such encounters, if they are to be fruitful, require honest and appropriate forms of expression together with attentive and respectful listening. The dialogue must be rooted in a genuine and mutual searching for truth if it is to realize its potential to promote growth in understanding and tolerance. Life is not just a succession of events or experiences: it is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this - in truth, in goodness, and in beauty - that we find happiness and joy. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by those who see us merely as consumers in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth.
"The concept of friendship has enjoyed a renewed prominence in the vocabulary of the new digital social networks that have emerged in the last few years. The concept is one of the noblest achievements of human culture. ... We should be careful, therefore, never to trivialize the concept or the experience of friendship. 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. 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.
"Friendship is a great human good, but it would be emptied of its ultimate value if it were to be understood as an end in itself. ... It is gratifying to note the emergence of new digital networks that seek to promote human solidarity, peace and justice, human rights and respect for human life and the good of creation. These networks can facilitate forms of co-operation between people from different geographical and cultural contexts that enable them to deepen their common humanity and their sense of shared responsibility for the good of all.
"We must, therefore, strive to ensure that the digital world, where such networks can be established, is a world that is truly open to all. It would be a tragedy for the future of humanity if the new instruments of communication, which permit the sharing of knowledge and information in a more rapid and effective manner, were not made accessible to those who are already economically and socially marginalized, or if it should contribute only to increasing the gap separating the poor from the new networks that are developing at the service of human socialization and information.
"I address myself in particular to young Catholic believers: to encourage 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."
"The 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 ... to take on the responsibility for the evangelization of this 'digital continent'. Be sure to announce the Gospel to your contemporaries with enthusiasm."
"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. Human hearts are yearning for a world where love endures, where gifts are shared, where unity is built, where freedom finds meaning in truth, and where identity is found in respectful communion. Our faith can respond to these expectations: may you become its heralds! The Pope accompanies you with his prayers and his blessing."