Pope Benedict XVI told priests who have a hard time getting their message out to their parishioners to start making ‘astute’ use of Internet.
The pope, who has used the Web heavily in recent years, urged priests to use any and all multimedia tools available to preach the word of God and to reach out to people of other religions and cultures.
In a message released by the Vatican, Benedict XVI said that e-mail and the Web is not always enough. He feels that priests should also make use of cutting-edge technologies to express themselves and lead their communities.
“The spread of multimedia communications and its rich ‘menu of options’ might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web,” but priests are “challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources,” he said.
Benedict said that young priests should become familiar with new media technologies while still in seminary, though he emphasized the importance of maintaining theological and spiritual principles while using media resources.
The 82-year-old pope has often been wary of new media, warning about the dangers posed by sex and violence in various media outlets. However, he has also praised the new ways of communicating as a “gift to humanity” when used to foster friendship and understanding.
The Vatican is trying hard to keep up with the rapidly changing technological world.
Last year it opened a YouTube channel as well as a portal dedicated to the pope. The Pope2You site gives news on the pope’s trips and speeches. There is even a Facebook app that allows users to send postcards to their family and friends containing photos of the pope and his excerpts.
Many priests and top religious figures already interact with the faithful online. One of Benedict’s advisers, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, the archbishop of Naples, has his own Facebook profile and so does Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles.
Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli, who heads the Vatican’s social communications office, said that Benedict’s words aimed to encourage reflection in the church on the positive uses of new media, but not to enforce it. It’s not mandatory that all priests open a blog or a Website. It is only offering that “the church and the faithful must engage in this ministry in a digital world,” Celli told reporters.
Celli, 68, said that young priests would have no trouble following the pope’s message, but, those of a certain age may find it much harder.
The Roman Catholic Church established World Communications Day, which is on May 16, in 1966, according to the AFO news agency. This year’s theme is “The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word.”
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