Shut up! I'm tweeting!
[Doesn't that title sound dumb? It's like saying, "Good morning Pope" Instead of "Good morning Holy Father/Your Holiness" - properly speaking that is. Just saying.]
Papa on-a-line. (That is Italian for Pope online.)
I'm pleased the Holy Father is saying something about being online, as well as noting the negative effects of continual ranting, which drives more people away, than attracting anyone to the Gospel.
"Ultimately, however, if our efforts to share the Gospel bring forth good fruit, it is always because of the power of the word of God itself to touch hearts, prior to any of our own efforts. Trust in the power of God’s work must always be greater than any confidence we place in human means. In the digital environment, too, where it is easy for heated and divisive voices to be raised and where sensationalism can at times prevail, we are called to attentive discernment.
Let us recall in this regard that Elijah recognized the voice of God not in the great and strong wind, not in the earthquake or the fire, but in 'a still, small voice'. We need to trust in the fact that the basic human desire to love and to be loved, and to find meaning and truth – a desire which God himself has placed in the heart of every man and woman – keeps our contemporaries ever open to what Blessed Cardinal Newman called the 'kindly light' of faith.
An authentic and interactive engagement with the questions and the doubts of those who are distant from the faith should make us feel the need to nourish, by prayer and reflection, our faith in the presence of God as well as our practical charity: 'If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal'. -BXVI
Amazingly, the Holy Father just gets on Twitter for a short time and he knows. Thank God!
Here are a few more snippets of what the Pope really had to say:
"I would like to offer you some reflections on an increasingly important reality regarding the way in which people today communicate among themselves. I wish to consider the development of digital social networks which are helping to create a new 'agora'*, an open public square in which people share ideas, information, and opinions, and in which new relationships and forms of community can come into being.Actually, Instead of reproducing it here, just read the entire document - it is worth it. I want to add a couple of personal impressions.
The culture of social networks and the changes in the means and styles of communication pose demanding challenges to those who want to speak about truth and values. Often, as is also the case with other means of social communication, the significance and effectiveness of the various forms of expression appear to be determined more by their popularity than by their intrinsic importance and value. Popularity, for its part, is often linked to celebrity or to strategies of persuasion rather than to the logic of argumentation. At times the gentle voice of reason can be overwhelmed by the din of excessive information and it fails to attract attention, which is given instead to those who express themselves in a more persuasive manner. The social media thus need the commitment of all who are conscious of the value of dialogue, reasoned debate and logical argumentation; of people who strive to cultivate forms of discourse and expression that appeal to the noblest aspirations of those engaged in the communication process. Dialogue and debate can also flourish and grow when we converse with and take seriously people whose ideas are different from our own. 'Given the reality of cultural diversity, people need not only to accept the existence of the culture of others, but also to aspire to be enriched by it and to offer to it whatever they possess that is good, true and beautiful'.
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. - Vatican Information Service
The Pope said the virtual is real. Especially for younger people - and maybe old too - people who live online. I get what he means, it is part of the daily experience - however - it does not replace real world reality and responsibility. If it that were the case, can I please make my confession online Holy Father, and receive absolution? So really, all I want to say to those who want to take his words on this and run with it, put it in perspective.
"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." - BXVI
I'm very impressed with the Pope's address and the commentary I've read from others. He recognizes the need for cordiality and friendly discourse. It would seem to me the Holy Father would actually praise the Catholic presence on Patheos - in fact it seems to me, *Patheos is a useful model for Catholic bloggers in the new "agora". I mention Patheos in this context because there was criticism of Catholics who signed on with the site despite the presence of advertising and policy statements which were more or less non-Catholic yet inclusive, and 'stuff' like that.
I'm grateful to the Holy Father for this good instruction.