Pope Benedict XVI has used World Communications Day to highlight the importance of social media to the expansion of the Catholic Church across coming generations and to the progress of human society.
He called upon leaders and members of the Church to embrace social networking, as an avenue of better communicating with society at large and promoting Catholicism through dialogue and debate.
“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,” the Pope said.
The annual message reflects the Pope’s recent activities, his Holiness having launched a private Twitter account in December, tweeting in nine languages to over 2.5 million followers.
Most recently the Pope began tweeting in Latin, and has already amassed 11,000 followers who watch solely his Latin tweets.
Explaining the importance of engaging people in religion via social media, his Holiness called on leaders to endeavour to properly understand the new forum for communication to best reach out to online communities.
“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.”
However, the Pope also touched upon the potential negative aspects of the online community, noting that social media must be conducted “respectfully and with concern for privacy, responsibility and truthfulness”.
He went on to warn that social media users should act in a “wise and balanced way” in order to enable society to enjoy the multiple benefits of online networks.
“The exchange of information can become true communication, links ripen into friendships, and connections facilitate communion. If the networks are called to realize this great potential, the people involved in them must make an effort to be authentic”, the Pope advised.