The infallible leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, is trying to boost his credentials as a modernizer by calling the Internet a gift from God. Thus implying that His Holiness may have browsed at least a few clips on YouTube, signed up for one or two newsletters he’ll never read, and registered an e-mail address.
His thoughts on the world wide web comes as part of World Communications Day, invented by the church in 1967 and celebrated annually to encourage reflection on how modern media can help to spread the Gospel.
“The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity,” Francis wrote in a statement. “This is truly good, a gift from God.
Clearly, watching clips of religious people getting Hitch-slapped or demolished by Richard Dawkins was not part of the Pope’s online experience. But some of the pontiff’s observations indicate that he may have read some of the comment sections.
“The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgment, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of self-expression,” he writes.
“The variety of opinions being aired can be seen as helpful, but it also enables people to barricade themselves behind sources of information which only confirm their own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests.”
Luckily, the Bible has never been used as a single source of information against scientific progress. Nor have politicians used it to help them secure votes from God-fearing masses.
“The desire for digital connectivity can have the effect of isolating us from our neighbours, from those closest to us. We should not overlook the fact that those who for whatever reason lack access to social media run the risk of being left behind,” Francis continues.
Amen to that, or to quote the millions of people who spend most of their daily lives online – “yolo!”
What would a message from the Holy See be without a tinge of arrogance? Towards the end of the papal message, Francis has a bit of a revelation and realizes that Internet can be used as a means for reaching out to people, who are obviously broken.
“The digital highway is one of them [way to reach people], a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope,” Francis writes. “By means of the internet, the Christian message can reach ‘to the ends of the earth.’”