Participants in the "Digital Witnesses: Faces and languages in the multi-media age” congress, hosted by the Italian bishop’s conference, heard the Holy Father speak this morning on the need to ensure digital technologies lead to an encounter with the whole person.
“The time in which we are living is seeing an enormous expansion of the frontiers of communication," noted the Pope. The Holy Father added that “the Internet is by nature open, tendentiously egalitarian and pluralist, but at the same time it also represents a new gulf.”
“The dangers of conformity and control, of intellectual and moral relativism, which are already evident in the diminution of the spirit of criticism, in the truth reduced to an interplay of opinions, in the many forms of degradation and humiliation of individual intimacy. We are witnessing a 'pollution of the spirit which clouds our faces and makes them less prone to smile,’” he warned.
In his talk, the Holy Father also spoke of the “digital divide,” which creates new borders of inclusion and exclusion, on top of the factors which already divide nations from one another and within themselves.
"And yet," he added, "the aim of this congress is precisely to recognize faces, and therefore to overcome those collective dynamics that can lead us to lose a sense of the depths people have, to remain on the surface. When this happens those people become bodies without a soul, objects to be exchanged and consumed."
"How is it possible to return to people's faces today?" the Pope asked.
The answer he presented comes from his encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate.” The media, he reflected, can have a positive and civilizing effect "not only when, thanks to technological development, they increase the possibilities of communicating information, but above all when they are geared towards a vision of the person and the common good that reflects truly universal values.”
But, in order to achieve this kind of goal, media and technology must “focus on promoting the dignity of persons and peoples, they need to be clearly inspired by charity and placed at the service of truth, of the good, and of natural and supernatural fraternity.”
Pope Benedict XVI stated that these conditions are necessary for making the technological change that our era is experiencing “be rich and fruitful in new opportunities.” “More than by our technical resources, necessary though they are, we wish to identify ourselves by inhabiting the [digital] universe with a believing heart which helps to give a soul to the endless flow of communications on the Internet,” said the Pope.
Ultimately, the “indispensable mission of the Church,” and the task of all believers working in the media, is to “open the door to new forms of encounter, maintaining the quality of human interaction, and showing concern for individuals and their genuine spiritual needs. They can thus help the men and women of our digital age to sense the Lord's presence,” the Pontiff concluded.