On Saturday, Pope Francis met with participants of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, who gathered for three days to reflect on the theme: “The Internet and the Church”.
The Holy Father focused on three points during his address: the importance of communication for the Church, the internet and the encounter with Christ.
Recalling the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Conciliar Decree Inter Mirifica, the Pope told participants that the document “expresses the Church’s solicitude for communication in all its forms, which are important in the work of evangelization.”
“In the last few decades, the various means of communication have evolved significantly, but the Church’s concern remains the same, taking on new forms and expressions,” the Pope said.
“The world of social communications, more and more, has become a “living environment” for many, a web where people communicate with each other, expanding the boundaries of their knowledge and relationships.”
The Role of the Church in Communications
Pope Francis told those gathered that the goal in communications is ultimately to dialogue with today’s men and women, who sometimes feel let down by “a Christianity that to them appears sterile.”
In today’s globalized age, the Holy Father stressed, there is a “growing sense” of isolation, an inability to connect with others that impede people from building meaningful relationships.
The 76 year old Pontiff told the Plenary Assembly that it is crucial to know how to dialogue with others, in the environments created by technology and social networks, “in such a way as to reveal a presence that listens, converses, and encourages.”
“Do not be afraid to be this presence, expressing your Christian identity as you become citizens of this environment. A Church that follows this path learns how to walk with everybody!,” the Pope exclaimed.
Christianity in the Digital Age
The challenge in proclaiming the Good News in the digital age, is not a technical one, the Pope said.
“We must ask ourselves – and here I come to the third step – are we up to the task of bringing Christ into this area and of bringing others to meet Christ? Are we able to communicate the face of a Church which is ‘home’ to all?,” the Holy Father asked.
Through both social communications and personal contact, the Church is called to “warm the hearts of men and women” who he said was “made up of real men and women who bring with them their hopes, their suffering, and their pursuit of what is true, beautiful and good.”
The Holy Father stressed the need to follow the example of the Blessed Mother, who he said “brought Christ to the hearts of men and women.
“We need to descend into the darkest night without being overcome and disorientated; we need to listen to the dreams, without being seduced; to share their disappointments, without becoming despondent; to sympathize with those whose lives are falling apart, without losing our own strength and identity,” the Holy Father emphasized.
Concluding his address, Pope Francis warned of the temptation within the Church of a “spiritual harassment that leads to a nominal encounter with Christ and not with the Living Person of Christ.”
“In a person’s encounter with Christ, both Christ and the person need to be involved! Not what’s wanted by the ‘spiritual engineer’, who wants to manipulate people. This is the challenge,” the Pope said.
“To bring about the encounter with Christ in the full knowledge, though, that we ourselves are means of communication, and that the fundamental problem is not the acquisition of the latest technologies, although these are necessary to a valid, contemporary presence.”