Today is the Feast of St. Francis de Sales, and according to Vatican custom, it is also the day when the Holy Father releases the text for the next World Communications Day, which will be held this upcoming May 12. This year’s message is titled: “Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelization.” You can read the entire text here – it is well worth a read and is fairly short but filled with wisdom.
On a first, quick reading, here are a few quotes from Pope Benedict’s message that are worth contemplating:
These spaces [social networks], when engaged in a wise and balanced way, help to foster forms of dialogue and debate which, if conducted respectfully and with concern for privacy, responsibility and truthfulness, can reinforce the bonds of unity between individuals and effectively promote the harmony of the human family. The exchange of information can become true communication, links ripen into friendships, and connections facilitate communion. If the networks are called to realize this great potential, the people involved in them must make an effort to be authentic since, in these spaces, it is not only ideas and information that are shared, but ultimately our very selves.
The challenge facing social networks is how to be truly inclusive: thus they will benefit from the full participation of believers who desire to share the message of Jesus and the values of human dignity which his teaching promotes. Believers are increasingly aware that, unless the Good News is made known also in the digital world, it may be absent in the experience of many people for whom this existential space is important.
Social networks are the result of human interaction, but for their part they also reshape the dynamics of communication which builds relationships: a considered understanding of this environment is therefore the prerequisite for a significant presence there.
Many people are actually discovering, precisely thanks to a contact initially made online, the importance of direct encounters, experiences of community and even pilgrimage, elements which are always important in the journey of faith. In our effort to make the Gospel present in the digital world, we can invite people to come together for prayer or liturgical celebrations in specific places such as churches and chapels. There should be no lack of coherence or unity in the expression of our faith and witness to the Gospel in whatever reality we are called to live, whether physical or digital. When we are present to others, in any way at all, we are called to make known the love of God to the furthest ends of the earth.
There’s so much more – be sure to check it out. It also seems to me that the Pope’s message is Twitter-friendly – whether deliberately so or not – with a number of short quotes that would make for great Tweets. Follow me on Twitter to see what I’m talking about.