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25/1/2013 - RMG - Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new space for evangelisation

(ANS – Rome) – Benedict XVI has dedicated his 47th world Communication Day Message to the world of the internet and in particular to the social networks. “Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new space for evangelisation” is a message that, as Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, has said, “is a positive evaluation of social media, though not an ingenuous one”.

The message appears to pick up and fit in with ideas the Pontiff has taken up in earlier messages of the kind. The invitations to authenticity, evangelising presence, creativity in using the new media for offering the Good News return each time.

Social networks are creating a new agora, “These spaces, 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”.

Digital social networks “are thus nourished by aspirations rooted in the human heart” even if at times sought out more for popularity than for reasons of validity. “The social media thus need the commitment of all who are conscious of the value of dialogue, reasoned debate and logical argumentation”, including those who think differently. This is why they need to be inclusive.

It is such inclusivity through which believers must make the Good News known in the digital arena too, otherwise “it may be absent in the experience of many people for whom this existential space is important”. The digital enviornment which has become ever more a part of daily reality for many young people. The Pope says, “a considered understanding of this environment is therefore the prerequisite for a significant presence there”.

The new languages generated by social networks can serve to highlight the wealth of the Gospel and so reach many, which is why Benedict XVI recalling the Christian symbolic tradition invites us to combine sound and image with the written word. Christians must share “the profound source of their hope and joy: faith in the merciful and loving God revealed in Christ Jesus. This sharing consists not only in the explicit expression of their faith, but also in their witness, in the way in which they communicate “choices, preferences and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically”. Responses to the deeper questions that surface on the web (love, truth, meaning of life, …) are to be found in Jesus Christ.

The social networks can also be an important tool in human development and give a sense of unity to isolated communities, by sharing spiritual and liturgical resources. The Pope notes how many, following first online contact, have begun their journey of faith.

The Councillor Social Communications, Fr Filiberto Gonzalez, offers us some Salesian emphases. “What the Pope has given us through this message encourages us to reflect as Salesians both as religious and as educators of the young. We are called in person to have the attitudes suggested by the Pontiff  and, along with the young, educate ourselves to knowing how best to use this new circumstance of the social networks authentically and maturely, prudently and without fear, preventing rather than repressing. Our Congregation has a wonderful past of evangelising creativity through old media; just think of the films, slides, paper materials, … It has to be no less the same for the future with new media. I already see many fine initiatives which are being spread by many Provinces: apps, formation courses for the young and for Salesians in initial formation, working alongside Church bodies. Our charism offers us a clear criterion: wherever the young are, let us be there too evangelising, educating, growing in holiness - together. The Salesian, our Constitutions tell us, and the Rector Major frequently repeats - “makes his own what is good in the world and does not bewail his own times: he accepts all that is good, especially if it appeals to the young” (C 17).

Published 25/01/2013

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