First, may I direct you back to an editorial I wrote for the UK’s Catholic Herald?
Holy Father encourages online priestly ministry
Vatican City, Jan 23, 2010 / 10:24 am (CNA).- In his message for the 44th World Day for Social Communications, Pope Benedict calls for priests to "make astute use" of available technology in becoming a presence as community leaders on the web. However, he urges them to remain "less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart." [Do I hear an "Amen!"?]
The 2010 World Day for Social Communications will take place on May 16 under the theme "The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word." The Holy Father’s message was released today.
The aim of this year’s message is to draw attention to the possibilities for priestly ministry offered within the "important and sensitive pastoral area of digital communications."
For every priest, states the Holy Father in the message, fulfilling the fundamental priority of building up God’s communion "necessarily involves using new communications technologies."
"Priests stand at the threshold of a new era: as new technologies create deeper forms of relationship across greater distances, they are called to respond pastorally by putting the media ever more effectively at the service of the Word." [Doin’ my part… ]
Pope Benedict emphasizes that "broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis" can be opened up in cyberspace with the presence of priests, living out their traditional role as community leaders in the world of digital communication.
With proper formation on how to use these technologies appropriately and competently, "shaped by sound theological insights and reflecting a strong priestly spirituality grounded in constant dialogue with the Lord" priests have the opportunity to "introduce people to the life of the Church and help our contemporaries to discover the face of Christ."
"Yet," cautions the Holy Father, "priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart, their closeness to Christ."
With their wisdom and preparation, he continues, priests’ presence online "will not only enliven their pastoral outreach, but also will give a ‘soul’ to the fabric of communications that makes up the ‘Web’." [Nice image. He has also given us the image of a "digital continent", which requires a special diakonia.]
"A pastoral presence in the world of digital communications, precisely because it brings us into contact with the followers of other religions, non-believers and people of every culture, requires sensitivity to those who do not believe, the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute."
The Pope reiterates the essential quality of the priest’s spiritual life and solid grounding in faith to his ministry through new technologies at the end of the message, saying that he "must always bear in mind that the ultimate fruitfulness of their ministry comes from Christ himself, encountered and listened to in prayer; proclaimed in preaching and lived witness; and known, loved and celebrated in the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation."
The message ends with a renewed invitation to the clergy, "to make astute use of the unique possibilities offered by modern communications. May the Lord make all of you enthusiastic heralds of the Gospel in the new "agorà" (gathering place) which the current media are opening up." [Okay… agora brings Pope Benedict back to, more close to the usual "public square" imagery we are used to. But it serves. Oh yes… it serves.]