Archbishop Calls for Digital Witnesses

Warns That Persons Can Be Crushed by Technology

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ROME, APRIL 26, 2010 ( Today’s world needs digital witnesses who can evangelize and dialogue with other religions through the Internet, affirms the president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli said this Friday in an address to participants in a conference on «Digital Witnesses: Faces and Languages in the Cross-Media Age,» an initiative promoted by the Italian bishops’ conference.

The conference, which began Thursday and ended Saturday, concluded with an audience with Benedict XVI in Paul VI Hall.

«Today we find ourselves as though exploring a new world,» Archbishop Celli said. «Now not so much importance is given to the means of communication as to the protagonist, the witness.»

«A witness,» he continued, «which meanwhile has become digital, underlining in this technical detail a transformation» that «really opens and unveils every day a new world before our eyes.»

These advances, the prelate said, have implied a «change of rhythm in the relations that knowledge and human learning have always woven with civil society.»


The archbishop affirmed, «Life, events, all that surrounds us are a continuous and incessant reminder: The media has already entered our life in many ways and often not only orient it but condition it; they claim, so to speak, a consideration that corresponds to them by right.»

Because of this, he said, attention must now be focused on the human being, «who has run the risk of being crushed by the invasion of new technologies and who is asked to take up again fully his own responsibility.»

Today, Archbishop Celli affirmed, «we are not called to be simply citizens, perhaps lost or just full of wonder in the digital continent.»

«Our task is not, either, to occupy just any space and to make ourselves present because there is nothing else to do,» he added.

«We are called, rather, to leave a visible imprint,» the prelate said, «recognizable imprints that make one think because of the marks we have in fact left by our presence.» 

«If the Internet by definition is virtual, to us corresponds the task of making it concrete, of giving it depth, of offering it, in a certain sense, a soul and hence, life,» he said.

Virtual roads

«As the first apostles went out into the then known roads,» the archbishop affirmed, in this way the Internet «will have to serve us to spread the Good News,» which is not only a «poetic image.»

He noted: «Of course we need to be well equipped with knowledge and, therefore, it corresponds to us to know today the ways and to move with certainty. But above all we are asked today to have a clear goal and to thoroughly know the objectives.»

Referencing the words of Benedict XVI for the 44th World Communications Day, the prelate called for «authentic and courageous witnesses,» so that the digital continent will «smooth the way for new encounters, always ensuring the quality of the human contact and care for persons and their real spiritual needs.»

This means to employ «the digital culture that presents itself today not only as a useful but a necessary service, underlining the anthropological dimension of the whole phenomenon of communication,» he said.

The archbishop concluded by referring to the «courtyard of the Gentiles,» mentioned by Benedict XVI, a space in which the Church can engage in dialogue with believers of other religions and with non-believers, as happened in the Temple of Jerusalem. 

Archbishop Celli affirmed, «I believe the Pope is inviting us to a 360 degree dialogue, open to all men» and «we should reflect on the vocation of our media at home.»

«They are not schools of religious fundamentalism,» he said, «but hope to be true moments of encounter, of dialogue, of listening lived in respect, but also in the authenticity of what we are.»

[With the contribution of Mirko Testa]

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Papal Message for 44th World Communications Day:

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