The Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI) inaugurated a three-day conference on "Digital Witnesses" yesterday in Rome. The gathering is aimed at providing a new generation with access to the message of Christ, using a recognizable "language."
The conference has drawn more than 1,300 participants from across Italy, who are attending addresses given by directors and journalists from Italian media outlets, experts on communications and digital technologies and Church leaders.
In his address on the opening day of the conference, CEI's secretary general, Bishop Mariano Crociata, said that while new media channels promoted by the Church community do not replace other means of communication, they do "represent a new opportunity" in response to the demand to "intensify dialogue and collaboration."
It's about reaching a generation which has a different vocabulary, Bishop Crociata explained, describing young people as "digital natives" who have been raised with the speed and pervasiveness of today's "horizontal, decentralized and interactive communication."
It's "a generation that is not against God or the Church, but a generation that is learning to live without God and without the Church," he noted.
In this context, he continued, the commitment of the Church to developing a "new literacy" in the digital media is about having a presence that is marked by "the Christian identity, the superabundance represented by the Gospel."
He also highlighted the challenge of establishing an "organic project" for social communications in the pastoral plan of dioceses that integrates this language and identity into other environments.
Citing the Holy Father's message for World Communications Day, the CEI secretary general concluded, "We must stop considering communications as 'an ulterior segment to the pastoral ministry or a sector dedicated to the media,' to understand it rather as 'the setting for a pastoral outreach entirely and integrally "rethought" from what the culture of media is and determines in consciences and in society.'"
Additional topics to be address during the conference are: "The social network and its centrality in communicative practices" and "Young people between mass media and personal media."
The culminating event of the conference is the final address, which will be given by the Holy Father in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall on Saturday afternoon to a crowd of around 8,000 participants and other representatives of the Italian Church.