Cardinal DiNardo on Youth and the Digital World

Plenary Assembly for Young People Continues in Vatican City

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Young people respond not only to the truth, says Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, but to truth that is lived boldly, and with joy.

The Pontifical Council for Culture, of which Cardinal DiNardo is a member, is hosting a Plenary Assembly this week, titled: «Emerging Youth Cultures.» The four-day assembly, which concludes tomorrow, has been examining various issues of importance to today’s youth. The objective of the assembly is to examine how pastoral care of the Church is to meet the needs of young people unique to this day and age.

Cardinal Dinardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, has been attending the Plenary Assembly. He spoke with ZENIT about his impressions of the gathering:

ZENIT: What is the role of culture in helping evangelize young people of the world?

Cardinal DiNardo: Culture is very important, but we have to talk about cultures [in the plural]. That’s one of the things that they’ve been hitting all week. The use of the term «culture,» as though it were some kind of monolithic thing, is simply not true. Culture involves the whole of symbols, ways of living, language, and all.

[This is the case] even within sub groups of young people, let along young people throughout the world. We have to remember that some of the aspects they are speaking about young people in the world today. One of the most sobering statistics that we received [for instance] is that there is a hundred and some million young people that are in such a level of poverty, they have access to nothing. They are at the margin of just trying to stay alive.

ZENIT: What would you say is the main challenge when it comes to engaging with young people of today?

Cardinal DiNardo: One of the undercurrents of this assembly is that young people are very much moved by what is happening today in the world of the digital, the worlds of communication. In fact, one of the speakers yesterday said that the internet and all such related things are more than just media; they are actually a total environment of living. We need to confront that.

In talking about the Catholic faith, what’s important for credibility is witness, a kind of boldness of faith, and matching the experience of prayer in the Church with what happens in the world. Young people are incredibly sensitive to this, more than to the truth of the message: [what they are sensitive to] is a message that is joyfully and boldly lived.

ZENIT: How is it possible to engage young people in a way that respects the digital medium in which they live, while at the same time encouraging them to seek silence, prayer, and human interaction outside the digital realm?

Cardinal DiNardo: That is the question. The world of the digital can become completely solipsistic. At the same time, you do, in an odd way, reach friends through it – whether they be facebook friends, or internet friends, or the kind of friends one hopes one would have in flesh and blood.

At the same time, these kinds of environments in media can spur young people on towards the sense that one needs to sometimes step aside for deeper prayer and contemplation, and [engage] the community of the faith and Church. This, in my mind, is where we have the challenge: to draw our young people using whatever is in the media, but also to let them see that the flesh and blood existence that what we have in the Church is absolutely significant for them.

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Ann Schneible

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