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Pope: “Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world.”

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January 23, 2014

If you’ve ever hit 'Send' and immediately regretted it, the words of Pope Francis for World Communications Day carry some sage advice:

“We need ... to recover a certain sense of deliberateness and calm.  This calls for time and the ability to be silent and to listen.  We need also to be patient if we want to understand those who are different from us,” wrote Pope Francis in his reflection for the 48th Annual World Communications Day.

Using lessons from the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Pope urged restraint, neighborliness and, most importantly, listening as keys to unlocking an “authentic culture of encounter” on the internet.

“Whenever communication is primarily aimed at promoting consumption or manipulating others, we are dealing with a form of violent aggression like that suffered by the man in the parable,” explained the Pope.  “The Levite and the priest do not regard him as a neighbor, but as a stranger to be kept at a distance.  In those days, it was rules of ritual purity which conditioned their response.  Nowadays there is a danger that certain media so condition our responses that we fail to see our real neighbor.”

In just a few short paragraphs Pope Francis addresses many of the challenges that communications specialist, sociologist, behavioral scientists and others are identifying as some of the major challenges of internet communication:

  • “The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgment”
  • “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.”
  • “The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people.”

Pope Francis’ answer to these questions is a simple one – treat people as people, listen respectfully and dialogue.

“May the light we bring to others not be the result of cosmetics or special effects, but rather of our being loving and merciful “neighbors” to those wounded and left on the side of the road,” writes the Pope.

Read the full text of Pope Francis for the 48th World Communications Day here.