Pope Francis calls on faithful to use the internet to offer “real reasons for hope”

Photo: Paul Haring/CNS

This story moved over the weekend and may have escaped your attention. But it’s worth reading, from Vatican Radio: 

Pope Francis on Saturday met with the participants of the 26th Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, meeting under the theme “Proclaiming Christ in the digital age.”

Pope Francis said the rise and development of the internet raises the question of the relationship between faith and culture.

Looking back to the first centuries of Christianity, the Pope pointed out Christians encountered the “extraordinary legacy” of Greek culture.

“Faced with philosophies of great profundity and educational methods of great value – although steeped in pagan elements, the Fathers did not shut them out, nor on the other hand, did they compromise with ideas contrary to the Faith,” Pope Francis said. “Instead, they learned to recognize and assimilate these higher concepts and transform them in the light of God’s Word, actually implementing what Saint Paul asks: Test all things and hold fast to that which is good.”

He said this also applies to the internet.

“You must test everything, knowing that you will surely find counterfeits, illusions and dangerous traps to avoid,” Pope Francis said. “But, guided by the Holy Spirit, we will discover valuable opportunities to lead people to the luminous face of the Lord. Among the possibilities offered by digital communication, the most important is the proclamation of the Gospel.”

He said it is not enough to acquire technological skills, however important. He said the internet must be used to meet “often hurting or lost” real people and offer them “real reasons for hope.”

“The announcement [of the Gospel] requires authentic human relationships and leads along the path to a personal encounter with the Lord,” he said.

“Therefore, the internet is not enough; technology is not enough,” Pope Francis continued. “This, however, does not mean that the Church’s presence online is useless; on the contrary, it is essential to be present, always in an evangelical way, in what, for many, especially young people, has become a sort of living environment; to awaken the irrepressible questions of the heart about the meaning of existence; and to show the way that leads to Him who is the answer, the Divine Mercy made flesh, the Lord Jesus.”

In my daily travels around “the digital continent,” I have to say that it is rare to find Catholic blogs that successfully and joyfully answer the pope’s call—and that includes, by the way, the page you’re reading.  We too often fall prey to cynicism, or sarcasm, or worse; at times, clergy bloggers are the worst offenders.

We can do better. We have to.

Advent reminds us that we need to be light—a source of healing and hope.

I touched on this subject a couple of weeks ago, when I preached at a Thanksgiving interfaith service: 

I was struck by one image today: a candle.  We lit a “candle of hope” at the start of this service. Candles, of course, figure prominently in the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, which starts Thursday. And next Sunday, we begin the season of Advent on the Christian calendar, with the lighting of candles in the Advent wreath.

I remember that a popular Catholic movement, the Christophers, uses a familiar Chinese proverb as its motto: it’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.  Each of us here today is a candle, lit against the darkness of a world that can be unfair, cruel, indifferent.

This afternoon, we join together to make that light brighter.

It takes effort, I think, to keep the flame burning, the spark sputtering, the glow spreading. It takes patience.  And it takes prayer.

To that end:

Lord our God,

we praise you for your Son, Jesus Christ:
he is Emmanuel, the hope of the peoples,
he is the wisdom that teaches and guides us,
he is the Savior of every nation.
Lord God,
let your blessing come upon us
as we light the candles of this wreath.
May the wreath and its light
be a sign of Christ’s promise to bring us salvation.
May he come quickly and not delay.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
R/. Amen.

O come, desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of humankind;
bid ev’ry sad division cease
and be thyself our Prince of peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.

Blessing of an Advent Wreath, USCCB

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