Evangelizing Goes Beyond Web Presence, Says Pope

Urges Priests to Minister Through Digital Technology

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 24, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is encouraging Catholics, especially priests, to use media technologies to reach new audiences with the message of God’s love.

The Pope affirmed this in a message, released Saturday, for the 44th World Communications Day, which will be celebrated May 16.

The theme of the day, «The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word,» reflects the Year for Priests currently underway in the Church.

The Pontiff affirmed that in digital communications, «priests can discover new possibilities for carrying out their ministry to and for the Word of God.»

«The recent, explosive growth and greater social impact of these media make them all the more important for a fruitful priestly ministry,» he stated.

The Holy Father underlined the mission of priests, who «have as their primary duty the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, and the communication of his saving grace in the sacraments.»

They are called to build up «the communion that God creates with all people,» he said, «in Christ and with Christ.»

«Responding adequately to this challenge amid today’s cultural shifts, to which young people are especially sensitive, necessarily involves using new communications technologies,» Benedict XVI affirmed.

New vistas

He continued: «The spread of multimedia communications and its rich ‘menu of options’ might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled.

«Yet priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different ‘voices’ provided by the digital marketplace.

«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.»

The Pope added, however, that «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.»

«Thanks to the new communications media,» he said, «the Lord can walk the streets of our cities and, stopping before the threshold of our homes and our hearts.»

«With the Gospels in our hands and in our hearts,» the Pontiff noted, «we must reaffirm the need to continue preparing ways that lead to the Word of God, while being at the same time constantly attentive to those who continue to seek.»

«Indeed,» he added, «we should encourage their seeking as a first step of evangelization.»

The Holy Father affirmed that «no door can or should be closed to those who, in the name of the risen Christ, are committed to drawing near to others.»

He pointed out that «the ultimate fruitfulness» of ministry «comes from Christ himself, encountered and listened to in prayer; proclaimed in preaching and lived witness; and known, loved and celebrated in the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation.»

New audiences

In a press conference Saturday for the public release of Benedict XVI’s message, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, clarified that the Pope is not encouraging priests to spend all of their time on the Internet.

Rather, he said, the Pontiff is exhorting priests to enhance their pastoral work by reaching out to others through digital technology.

The message is not just for priests, the archbishop noted, but for all Catholics: New media technology is a great opportunity for believers.

Monsignor Paul Tighe, secretary of the council, noted that «new audiences» can be reached through current technology.

He added that the Pope invites priests and all believers to «use the web to create a space of dialogue where Christians, believers of other religions and non-believers can encounter each other in a respectful search for truth and wisdom.»

The message, the secretary pointed out, «encourages all of us to ensure that the emerging ecclesial and priestly presence in the digital world is always one that represents faithfully all that is best about the Church, that witnesses to God’s abiding love for all people and that is marked by a profound commitment to build up communion within the Church and the unity of the whole human family.»

As is tradition, the Papal message was presented on the occasion of the feast of St. Francis de Sales, the patron of journalists and the Catholic press, who is celebrated today.

In his public address before praying the midday Angelus today, Benedict XVI noted that the saint «dedicated himself to preaching and the spiritual formation of the faithful with great fruit, teaching that the call to holiness is for all and that everyone […] has his place in the Church.»

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Message for World Communications Day: http://zenit.org/article-28139?l=english

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