Archbishop Celli: The Digital Continent Is a Great Challenge and Opportunity

Pontifical Council for Social Communication President Speaks on the Challenges of Evangelizing in the Digital Age

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The primary strength of communication in the Church is attraction with a personal witness and not just religious propaganda. Catholics are called to be present within the challenges and opportunities provided by the digital continent, giving more its witness rather than just bombarding with information.

These were the sentiments of Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication. In an interview with ZENIT, he highlighted the importance of communities willing to welcome in a concrete and fraternal way these men and women who found Jesus through the world wide web.

ZENIT: What are the Challenges and Novelties in Communication for the Church today?

Archbishop Celli: I think that one of the great challenges that we must address today is, especially, the presence of the Church in the context created by the new technologies. The Church certainly has as its point of reference personal witness and Pope Francis has reminded us of it again, as his predecessors did, and also Paul VI with Evangelii nuntiandi, which stresses that the Church communicates by attraction and not be religious propaganda. Therefore, this is important: attraction means that others will understand the message because of our witness. This is the primary strength of communication in the Church. Then we have at our disposition the traditional means. I am thinking of the press, radio and television, although it is undeniable that today the new technologies of communication gave origin to what we call the digital continent. Therefore, I would say that it is a great challenge but also a great opportunity.

ZENIT: And in the social networks?

Archbishop Celli: In the great context of the social networks, we are called to give witness of the values in which we believe. Therefore, in his first message on the occasion of the World Day of Communications, Pope Francis said: “Do not be afraid to enter the social networks.” It is not a naive invitation. We all know the risks and dangers that exist in the social networks and on the Internet.

Pope Francis has a very nice expression; he says that the problem is not to bombard the social networks with religious messages, but that the profound subject is to give witness; to make a synthesis of life, between my life and the Gospel. Because the man of today, as Pope Paul VI reminded us, believes more in witnessess than in teachers. And if he believes a teacher it ‘s because the teacher is a witness.

My friends, I would say that this is the underlying subject, to accept the challenge of the new technologies, to accept the challenge of being present in the digital continent and to have the great proclamation of the Gospel resound also in this continent.

ZENIT: Is it important that Episcopal Conferences, dioceses and parishes have their Website updated?

Archbishop Celli: Again, I believe the subject is not only to give information, but the problem is to give witness of life. It’s true, unfortunately, that in the world not all the dioceses have a Web page and even less so parishes. However, I believe that here also, as I just said, the challenge must be picked up, evaluating and appreciating the opportunities that are offered to us, of being able to dialogue with those persons who perhaps will never put a foot in the Church, but who do enter a Website.

ZENIT: And is the Web enough?

Archbishop Celli: We must acknowledge that the Christian life cannot be lived only in front of a computer’s screen. Christian life calls for living in community. Then I can encounter Jesus thanks to the rich and purposeful help of an Internet site, but afterwards I must find a community that receives me and enables me to undertake a concrete journey of faith. Therefore, from one point of view, I welcome those efforts and attempts for the Church to be present with her pleasing, likeable and stimulating Web pages, which invite to reflection, which enable the man and woman of today to encounter Jesus and know him better. However, afterwards there is the great need to have communities exist that are capable of receiving ,in a fraternal and concrete way, those men and women who have encountered Jesus on the Web.

ZENIT: Those who work in information must be impartial but not indifferent. How can this be achieved?

Archbishop Celli: We are called to be servants of truth. I am thinking of Benedict XVI’s beautiful words when he said that our communication must be at the service of the truth about man. The press, all our instruments of communication, must be as the disposition of the truth about man. It’s the great challenge because, undoubtedly, one runs risks. If the criterion is personal benefit or certain economic results one ends up by not respecting man. Instead here, our information, our communication, and therefore — I prefer to speak of communication rather than information –, our communication must be really centered on man and always say the truth about man. To defend man and to give man, in today’s context, the occasion and the opportunity to grow to realize fully his vocation.

ZENIT: How do you see the work of ZENIT News Agency?

Archbishop Celli: I am always grateful to those who work in the field of communication with professional competence. I would say that here also there is a great challenge today. And it is to receive, in today’s context, this service to truth, this service to Jesus Christ. And I always remember what Pope Francis said to a journalist: We must be servants of truth of goodness and of beauty.

Because these three concepts, these three realities, what is beautiful, what is true, and what is good, find a profound unity. I believe that, for the man of today,  our communication must be at the service of these three realities.

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Sergio Mora

Buenos Aires, Argentina Estudios de periodismo en el Istituto Superiore di Comunicazione de Roma y examen superior de italiano para extranjeros en el Instituto Dante Alighieri de Roma. Periodista profesional de la Associazione Stampa Estera en Italia, y publicista de la Orden de periodistas de Italia. Fue corresponsal adjunto del diario español El País de 2000 a 2004, colaborador de los programas en español de la BBC y de Radio Vaticano. Fue director del mensual Expreso Latino, realizó 41 programas en Sky con Babel TV. Actualmente además de ser redactor de ZENIT colabora con diversos medios latinoamericanos.

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