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Pope challenges all to become ‘citizens of the digital world’

By Ann Marie Foley - 26 January, 2014

Pope FrancisArchbishop Eamon Martin has welcomed Pope Francis’ message for World Communications Day 2014 on the theme “Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter”

Speaking in the Vatican, Archbishop Eamon Martin stated, “I am particularly taken by Pope Francis call: ‘Let us boldly become citizens of the digital world.'”

“The Church needs to be concerned for, and present in, the world of communication, in order to dialogue with people today and to help them encounter Christ.”

Elsewhere in his message, the Pope states that the internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity, and is something truly good, a gift from God.

However, the Pontiff also asserts that media strategies do not ensure beauty, goodness and truth in communication. The world of media also has to be concerned with humanity.

The Pope highlights a ‘scribe’ – a communicatior – in the gospel who asked Jesus ‘Who is my neighbour?’

“We might paraphrase the question in this way: How can we be “neighbourly” in our use of the communications media and in the new environment created by digital technology?”

Pope Francis said he found an answer in the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is also a parable about communication. Those who communicate, in effect, become neighbours. The Good Samaritan not only draws nearer to the man he finds half dead on the side of the road; he takes responsibility for him.”

This year’s message is the first from Pope Francis marking the 48th World Day of Social Communications which will be celebrated on 1 June 2014, the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord and the Sunday before Pentecost.

Archbishop Martin presented the message, at a press conference in the Vatican Press Office ahead of the Feast of St Francis de Sales, patron of journalists, writers and editors.

Commenting on the newly released message Archbishop Martin said, “He (Pope Francis) makes use of the parable of ‘The Good Samaritan’ to challenge us, in all our communications, to become ‘neighbours’ to one another, and especially to those who are isolated or excluded in any way.”

In his message Pope Francis sets out a challenge when he says “As I have frequently observed, if a choice has to be made between a bruised Church which goes out to the streets and a Church suffering from self-absorption, I certainly prefer the first. Those ‘streets’ are the world where people live and where they can be reached, both effectively and affectively.”

Hand holding a Social Media 3d SphereArchbishop Martin said he echoes the Pope’s sentiments when he says that it is not enough to be a passerby on the digital highways.

“I encourage people of faith to be present as neighbours in the digital media, and to bring the message and compassion of Christ to all those they meet online.”

Archbishop Martin applauded those in Ireland who witness to their love of Jesus on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and a host of other digital platforms.

Many parishes and dioceses are developing a strong presence on the world wide web through webstreaming of Mass and other liturgies, sacred prayer spaces online, short video testimonies and discussion forums on the Word of God and other matters of faith.

He said that the digital highway is one of “those streets” which Pope Francis describes as “a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope. By means of the internet, the Christian message can reach “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

-Archbishop Eamon Martin is Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh and can be followed on Twitter as @ArchbishopEamon

– For links to the Catholic Bishops’ Social Media accounts and full text of Pope’s message: www.catholicbishops.ie

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