Benedict XVI on the ‘digital continent’

I have used this example for years now: Our Lord asked to be let out on the water in a little boat at the end of a line so that He could address a much larger crowd on the shore.  He thereby gave us the first example of "on-line ministry".  He used technology to address a wider audience.

Another point I have been hammering at is that Pope Benedict is trying to revitalize our Catholic identity so that we can have a positive influence in the world as Catholics, as disciples of Christ.   We have something indispensable to contribute in the public square.  

That image of the "public square" is perennially valid.  Yet, the Holy Father has expanded the image" "digital continent".

We have to contribute not merely more of the same to the digital pulse of this age, but we must find ways to adjust the very frequency of that digital pulse.  

From CNA:

Benedict XVI says Church needs to proclaim Gospel on the ‘digital continent’

Vatican City, Oct 29, 2009 / 11:30 am (CNA).- Addressing the full Pontifical Council for Social Communications today, Benedict XVI urged its members to help communicate the teachings of the Church on the “digital continent” of the ever-changing technological landscape.

Reflecting on the role of social networking and increasingly real-time electronic communication, Pope Benedict XVI said on Thursday that "modern culture is established, even before its content, in the very fact of the existence of new forms of communication that use new languages; they use new technologies and create new psychological attitudes.”

"Effectively," he continued, the advent of new technology “supposes a challenge for the Church, which is called to announce the Gospel to persons in the third millennium, maintaining its content unaltered but making it understandable.”

Quoting John Paul II’s encyclical "Redemptoris Missio" that affirms: "Involvement in the mass media, however, is not meant merely to strengthen the preaching of the Gospel. There is a deeper reality involved here: since the very evangelization of modern culture depends to a great extent on the influence of the media.”

 “It is not enough to use the media simply to spread the Christian message and the Church’s authentic teaching. It is also necessary to integrate that message into the ‘new culture’ created by modern communications," the Holy Father asserted.  [Do I hear an "Amen!"?]

Pope Benedict also emphasized the need to promote a culture of respect, a culture aware of the dignity of the human being.  He charged those companies and individuals responsible for the development and promotion of new media as ones “capable of developing the gifts and talents of each and of putting them at the service of the human community."

"In this way the Church exercises that which can be defined as a ‘deaconate [sic] of culture’ [diaconate] on today’s ‘digital continent,’ using its means to announce the Gospel, the only Word that can save the human being,” the Pope proclaimed.

The task of enriching the elements of the new culture of the media, beginning with their ethical aspects, falls to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. This Council must provide orientation and guidance in helping the particular churches understand the importance of communication, “which represents a key point that cannot be overlooked in any pastoral plan," the Pontiff explained.

Concluding, Pope Benedict recalled the 50th anniversary of the Vatican Film Archive founded by Blessed John XXIII, which possesses a "rich cultural patrimony pertaining to all humanity.” The archive must continue to collect and catalogue images "that document the path of Christianity through the suggestive witness of the image," he urged.


Every diocese ought to have a Vicar of Online Ministry and a plan.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Dove says:

    We should acknowledge the work done by Mother Angelica lo these many years, with EWTN, which is seen worldwide. Eternal Word Television Network. She has done what the Pope is talking about.

  2. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    Archbishop Dolan is already making use of his electronic pulpit to blast the NY Times for its reporting — including that Maureen Dowd column. If I can put in a link:—the-gospel-in-the-digital-age/index.cfm?i=14042

  3. ssoldie says:

    Yea! let’s just dissolve the USCCB, and have each Bishop in every diocese have a direct line to the Holy Father. There would be no need for the Bishop’s to get together and ‘vote’ what they are going to do. The Pope would tell them what they must be doing.

  4. Pater OSB says:

    Fr. Z for prefect of the Congregation of the Digital Continent! [How about Prefect of Propaganda Fide Digitali. The head of Propaganda is called “the Red Pope”. I suppose I could them be the “Virtual Pope”.]

  5. FrCharles says:

    I shall volunteer for one of the positions Fr. Z has proposed!

    I think Dove’s comment on EWTN is well taken. Apart from the simple offering of solid, Catholic teaching in an unapologetic way, EWTN has succeeded, in my estimation, because it isn’t just an attempt to put up with the medium as a way of teaching and preaching, but an evangelization of the means of communication itself, as Benedict proposes. In other words, Mother Angelica succeeded where many had failed because she not only made TV that was Catholic, but Catholic TV that was also good TV. Even my mother, a lapsed Unitarian (her theological language, not mine) watched it and remarked that the characters one met were “folksy and interesting.”

  6. q7swallows says:

    Pater OSB,

    I second that motion! Fr. Z for Prefect!

  7. mrsmontoya says:

    Hurrah! St. Plurk’s is now part of a digital diocese!

  8. antanas says:

    “Every diocese ought to have a Vicar of Online Ministry and a plan”.

    Yes and yes.

  9. DarkKnight says:

    Fr. Z for Primate of the Digital Continent

  10. chironomo says:

    This is an excellent idea. However, I could see where this could be a double edge sword depending on the Bishop. Should we actually want Cardinal Mahoney or Bishop Trautmann to have a greater and more effective reach than they already have?

  11. TC says:

    It might help if the Church made its Bible translations, missals, hymnals, &c available for free under a Creative Commons license. The USCCB’s permissions policy is one of the most restrictive out there. One may not quote the NAB online w/o advance permission (perhaps a good thing overall but not the point here).
    Protestant Bibles, commentaries, &c are all over the place as text or audio — they have been way ahead of us using new infotech since the invention of the printing press.

  12. Rouxfus says:

    The Wikipedia is an excellent tool for promoting a respect for the truth, which is itself a form of evangelization. Never has it been so easy to be an agent of truth, by taking the time to correct error and falsehood when it inevitably creeps in on the backs of modern-day vandals and goths. Anyone can act as an agent of truth, and it wants truth-honoring shepherds to keep watch there. This is truly what John Stuart Mill envisioned when, in On Liberty, he proposed that the truth should emerge out of the marketplace of ideas. The Wikipedia is a universal forum for the truth to be manifested. I reckon it must be one of the seven wonders of the digital age.

    In the days of yore, there were monasteries filled with monks copying manuscripts, saving and propagating the pillars of civilization. I see in my mind a vision of monks at terminals, doing a similar job with more modern tools – keeping up the side on Wikipedia by making sure the truth is upheld. I wonder if there are any existing orders currently pursuing an online mission?

  13. Steve K. says:

    TC – that would be an excellent.

    The Vatican could steal a march and simply release all this material from, and override national bishops’ councils on these matters? I am not sure why the CCB is in this business anyway – permission and copyright on things having to do with the Word of God and His ministry should be completely free, but perhaps there’s an angle I haven’t considered.

    In any case, the Vatican’s website is pretty good, especially the section on the Popes and all their encyclicals, letters and so on. Unfortunately it only goes back to Pius IX.

    Dove – EWTN is indeed a shining example of this, and of course the Pope recently recognized her and Deacon Bill Steltemeier with the Papal medal Pro Ecclesiae et Ponitifice.

  14. Kimberly says:

    I hope this doesn’t mean that the USCCB is going to try and start up another network. God help us!

  15. Tim Ferguson says:

    Not the Red Pope or the Black Pope, but the Ether Pope

  16. hmmm… Ether Pope…. Digital Primate…

    How about Digital Patriarch?

  17. q7swallows says:


    Have faith; Pope Benedict XVI is at the helm! He knows the players.

  18. It will be the new internet FTP – For The Pope (of Christian Unity) – protocol! Let’s standardize that in the IETF.

  19. catholicmidwest says:

    No, because they’d spend 90% of their time attacking us.

Comments are closed.