Pope Benedict invites priests to give a ‘soul’ to the fabric of the ‘Web’

First, may I direct you back to an editorial I wrote for the UK’s Catholic Herald?

From CNA:

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.]

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Prof. Basto says:

    And here is the link to the actual text of the Pope’s message for the 44th World Communications Day (to be celebrated on May 16th, 2010), under the theme “”The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word”, a message that bears tomorrow’s date (January 24th, 2010, Feast of St. Francis de Sales):


    The message includes an explicit endorsement of blogs run by priests as a tool for the propagation of Christian docrine:

    “The spread of multimedia communications and its rich “menu of options” might make us think it sufficient simply to be present on the Web, or to see it only as a space to be filled. Yet priests can rightly be expected to be present in the world of digital communications as faithful witnesses to the Gospel, exercising their proper role as leaders of communities which increasingly express themselves with the different “voices” provided by the digital marketplace.Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.

  2. JosephMary says:

    The religous Order of the Franciscans of the Immaculate are most involved with media transmissions. In some places there are Catholic TV stations that are maintained by a friary. Catholic radio stations are also a goal for many friaries with Cor Maria being the newest endeavor in this country out of New Bedford, MA.

    Through http://www.AirMaria.com good homilies are presented on the web and there are other agencies such as Gloria TV that also pick them up.

    The ‘enemy’ uses mass communication for evil purposes; let us strive to overcome evil with good and support holy endeavors of mass communications.

  3. Incaelo says:

    I was quite struck by the comparison between the internet and the Court of the Gentiles, as well as with Isaia’s ‘house of prayer for all peoples’.

    If I had anything to say about it, I would be all for dedicated communications/media classes for seminarians. I don’t know about other countries, but that basically does not exist here in the Netherlands. Communication classes are limited to public speaking and singing. Also important, but there is so much more to learn in that area.

  4. Jord says:

    Thanks for giving a bit of soul to the web, Fr Z.

  5. Magpie says:

    I thank you Father Z for helping to form me and others in the authentic Catholic faith via your blog and especially your podcazts. Although I still spend way too much time on the internet, I know that what I have learned here will aid my salvation, if only I get round to putting into practical use in my life. I wish that what I have read here was mega-widely circulated among ordinary Catholics (as opposed to us blog-readers =p) who really need to be educated and formed.

  6. Melania says:

    I’m glad you keep pushing this, Fr. Z.

    I would also agree with Incaelo’s suggestion of communications classes for all seminarians.

    The importance of the media, particularly the Internet cannot be overstated. There are already a lot of Catholic resources out there now. In establishing a diocesan Media Ministry office, it would be a big step forward if they just created a list of available resources to use and pushed it out firmly to the parishes.

    I am amazed at how my local parish seems totally ignorant of and/or indifferent to EWTN, the local Catholic radio station, and the myriad online Catholic resources. To look at their bulletins or listen to their sermons you would never know such things exist.

    This is insane.

    These are invaluable tools for evangelization which could be very powerful if used universally in a coordinated manner.

  7. irishgirl says:

    Yes-thank you, Father Z, and all the other blogging priests out there [His Hermeneuticalness comes to mind, too] for all you do on the Web!

  8. Maltese says:

    A sword can preserve peace or bring war. A car can bring a family to church or be used by a drunk-driver to bring the same family down. The tongue is a double edged sword, and can be used to lift the soul or depress it. A picture or movie can enlighten or deprave. So too the internet: it is capable of all of the above, but in one instant resource; thus it is capable of the greatest good and greatest evil. Unfortunately, due to human nature, and our fallen state, it is used largely at the behest of a multi-billion dollar pornography industry, at least here in America…

  9. Every time I think I couldn’t possibly love our little pope any more, he says something else that’s so sensible, so poetic, so true….

    Wow. What an attaboy to all the priests, consecrated folks, and laypeople using the Web for God’s service, and what a challenge to everyone to do more and better. He obviously has immense faith in people’s ability to use their initiative, as well as for priests’ ability to act as leaders on the Web as well as in their own parishes. This year’s message is even better than last year’s, when it comes to telling people that they are empowered to serve and evangelize, right where they are.

    And then that stuff about the Web being compared to a house of prayer for all peoples… oh, geez, he’s got me crying like a baby again. What is it with this man, that’s he’s so good at crystallizing vague notions out in the zeitgeist into solid ideas, as if they were always there? It’s so perfect, but I’ve never heard that comparison before from anyone, I know!

    When I think of all the times down the years that priests and Catholics in general have gotten guff for their online efforts… this is a real shining vindication.

  10. Papa Benny knows the power of blogging!

    He is a WDTPRSer!

  11. thefeds says:

    Do I hear an “Amen” in gratitude for the work of Fr. Z?

  12. Agnes says:

    Amen amen!

  13. Prof. Basto says:


  14. Kerry says:

    One can now be certain that The Holy Father both does not read and was not referring to Father Z when he said, “less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart.” Were he a reader, the latter would be immediately apparent, and, via Father Z’s often expressed computer woes, so would the former.

  15. Pedantic Classicist says:

    Thank you for your good work, Father Z, which I have found very edifying. I liked the Holy Father’s use of the Greek word agora (complete with the accent in the right place!): a little bit of outreach to our brothers and sisters in the East, perhaps? Leave it to the Pope of Christian Unity to include nice little touches like this for any Greek (Orthodox) folks who might be listening in.

    Maybe that East-West Reconciliation is closer than we think! Now, if the pope would just try growing a beard…

    Kerry: Ha! Good one! But it’s true that the “priestly heart” is very much in evidence here and at a number of other good priests’ blogs. Gott sei Dank!

  16. Paul M says:

    In this, Fr. Z, you are indeed the tip-of-the-spear. Thank you!

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