Pope urges priests to join the digital revolution

An image of Pope Benedict on a Vatican Web site as displayed on an Apple iPod touch. (CNS photo/Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict’s message for World Communications Day 2010, unveiled at a Vatican press conference today, encourages priests around the world to take their pastoral ministry online through Web sites, blogs and videos.

The message says the church cannot afford to ignore the possibilities offered by the digital revolution. Our story today reviews the main themes of the pope’s text, and here are some excerpts:

Responding adequately to this challenge amid today’s cultural shifts, to which young people are especially sensitive, necessarily involves using new communications technologies. The world of digital communication, with its almost limitless expressive capacity, makes us appreciate all the more Saint Paul’s exclamation: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16)

In this Year for Priests, the pope focused on how the church’s ordained ministers can turn the Internet and new media into powerful instruments of evangelization.

Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis. Using new communication technologies, priests can introduce people to the life of the Church and help our contemporaries to discover the face of Christ.

Lest the church be seen as encouraging a new media “star system” among its clergy, the pope adds a word of caution.

Priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart, their closeness to Christ. This will not only enliven their pastoral outreach, but also will give a “soul” to the fabric of communications that makes up the “Web”.

The pope recognized that digital media will inevitably take priests beyond the church’s own boundaries, requiring a sensitive approach.

A pastoral presence in the world of digital communications, precisely because it brings us into contact with the followers of other religions, non-believers and people of every culture, requires sensitivity to those who do not believe, the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute.

The main goal of the church’s digital presence should be to remind modern men and women that God is near, he said.

Thanks to the new communications media, the Lord can walk the streets of our cities and, stopping before the threshold of our homes and our hearts, say once more: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20).

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