Yesterday saw the release of the Vatican’s new “Pope App”, which is so well-done that even God and the Machine’s Tom McDonald gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up, writing, “I may have to take back all the bad things I’ve been saying about Vatican communications. (Okay, some of them.)”
I downloaded the app to my phone last night, and agree that it’s pretty groovy. But right on the heals of that app roll-out, the pope has more to offer on these virtual fields in which the sheep do graze.
On this Feastday of St. Francis de Sales, Pope Benedict proves once again that if he has not John Paul II’s extroverted camera-savvy, he certainly is on top of things when it comes to alternative media:
The challenge facing social networks is how to be truly inclusive: thus they will benefit from the full participation of believers who desire to share the message of Jesus and the values of human dignity which his teaching promotes. Believers are increasingly aware that, unless the Good News is made known also in the digital world, it may be absent in the experience of many people for whom this existential space is important. The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young. Social networks are the result of human interaction, but for their part they also reshape the dynamics of communication which builds relationships: a considered understanding of this environment is therefore the prerequisite for a significant presence there.
The ability to employ the new languages is required, not just to keep up with the times, but precisely in order to enable the infinite richness of the Gospel to find forms of expression capable of reaching the minds and hearts of all. In the digital environment the written word is often accompanied by images and sounds. Effective communication, as in the parables of Jesus, must involve the imagination and the affectivity of those we wish to invite to an encounter with the mystery of God’s love. Besides, we know that Christian tradition has always been rich in signs and symbols: I think for example of the Cross, icons, images of the Virgin Mary, Christmas cribs, stained-glass windows and pictures in our churches. A significant part of mankind’s artistic heritage has been created by artists and musicians who sought to express the truths of the faith.
In social networks, believers show their authenticity by sharing the profound source of their hope and joy: faith in the merciful and loving God revealed in Christ Jesus. This sharing consists not only in the explicit expression of their faith, but also in their witness, in the way in which they communicate “choices, preferences and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically” (Message for the 2011 World Communications Day). A particularly significant way of offering such witness will be through a willingness to give oneself to others by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence. The growing dialogue in social networks about faith and belief confirms the importance and relevance of religion in public debate and in the life of society.
Read the whole thing. And do check out the app! And if you’re not following His Holiness on twitter, do start following @Pontifex and drop him a question with the hashtag #askpontifex. You never know when he will answer!