.- Pope Francis spoke to Church officials and social communications experts from around the world, encouraging them to focus on leading others to Christ through personal witness of the beauty of faith.
“The challenge is to rediscover, through the means of social communication as well as by personal contact, the beauty that is at the heart of our existence and our journey, the beauty of faith and of the encounter with Christ,” the Holy Father said Sept. 21.
His statement comes near the close of the annual plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications that has been meeting in Rome for the last three days.
The Council gathered with invited experts from around the world to discuss how the Church can better engage in and evangelize through the world of social communications.
Pope Francis encouraged participants to consider the heart of their message, regardless of what kind of technology they use to express it.
“It is necessary to be absolutely clear that the God in whom we believe, who loves all men and women intensely, wants to reveal himself through the means at our disposal, however poor they are, because it is he who is at work, he who transforms and saves us,” the Pontiff explained.
In a world of online and virtual social communications, we must remember “that we are ourselves are the real means of communication,” said Pope Francis.
“The great digital continent not only involves technology, but is made up of real men and women who bring with them their hopes, their suffering, their concerns and their pursuit of what is true, beautiful, and good,” he continued.
Christians must bring the beauty of their authentic love of Christ into the digital world.
“I believe that the goal is to understand how to enter into dialogue with the men and women of today,” the Pontiff said.
In order to evangelize effectively, he said that priests, religious and laity “must have a thorough and adequate formation” in the use of the latest types of media and the ability to “to pass through the clouds of indifference without losing our way.”
In a world that experiences “a growing sense of disorientation and isolation” and where the Church can appear “sterile and in difficulty as it tries to communicate the depth of meaning that comes with the gift of faith,” authentic means of expressing the truth are essential.
The Church must work “with discernment, to use modern technologies and social networks in such a way as to reveal a presence that listens, converses and encourages.”
“Allow yourselves, without fear,” he said, “to be this presence, expressing your Christian identity as you become citizens of this environment.”
Msgr. Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, noted that the challenge facing the Church today has to do with explaining “the philosophy that lies behind” the communications themselves.
Rather than a means of one-sided preaching, the Church hopes to use social communications to “engage in conversation.”
Greg Erlandson, president of Our Sunday Visitor, called the Church “a significant communicator in this world.”
As such, Catholics – especially those involved in social communications – are “challenged” with the “absolutely critical” task of communicating the Gospel and bringing people “to encounter Christ through our own actions” and “our own words.”
Faithful to its mission, the Pontifical Council for Social Communications used hashtags on Twitter and updates on Facebook to engage social media users worldwide during the assembly.