On Sunday, May 12, the Church marked World Communications Day, encouraging Catholics in countries across the globe to make better use of the media and other forms of communication to share the good news of the Gospel with all men and women. This year, the papal message, drawn up and released in January by Benedict XVI, focuses on the importance of social networking sites as “portals of truth and faith”, and “new spaces for evangelisation”.
In the message, the former pontiff, who opened the first papal Twitter account at the end of last year, invites people to appreciate the potential of social media sites and urges believers, in this Year of Faith, to consider how their presence on these networks can help spread the Gospel message of God’s love for all people. In January, following the publication of this 47th World Communications Day message, Mgr Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, spoke to Vatican Radio:
“Over the last 4 to 5 years the Pope has been generating a lot of material that is reflecting on the new media as they emerge……it’s a changing reality…..and I think the Pope is attentive to that, so this year he’s moving into something that is relatively recent, the social networks, which have become a distinguishing feature of how communication happens….
Is this a follow-up to the opening of his Twitter account? I think this is offering a kind of philosophical or theological justification for why that wasn’t just a one-off event, but it was a very important statement …..of the significance he attributes to new media…..
The Pope is asking two fundamental questions ….how can new media contribute to human progress and secondly, what can we Christians do in that arena to help and support the development of social networks in a positive manner… People often talk about ‘user generated content’ but I think the Pope is guiding us to a ‘user generated culture’….we need to ask how can we help to promote understanding and solidarity….if these are to be social networks, there’s no place for the anti-social, for harassment or bullying…..it’s not enough to be the one who shouts the loudest…..respect in engaging with and treating the other person is fundamental.