A Vatican official urged Catholic communicators to “a conversion” to be able to “build a web that liberates, not to legitimize a web that imprisons everything.”
“The digital world is not ready-made. We ourselves can change it. For better or for worse,” said Dr. Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication of the Vatican.
Speaking before the SIGNIS World Congress 2022 at Sogang University in Seoul on August 16, Ruffini said “the paradox of our time is division.”
He said it is a “time so connected and dense with loneliness,” “founded on communication and a victim of incommunicability.”
The Vatican official reminded the global gathering of Catholic journalists and communicators of “a constant human temptation” that is “deluding ourselves that we can separate our destiny from that of others; and even our own intellect from our own soul.”
The event is held every four years, and the 2022 Congress explores the theme of “Peace in the Digital World.”
SIGNIS is the World Catholic Association for Communication, an organization whose mission is to “help transform cultures in the light of the Gospel by promoting human dignity, justice and reconciliation.”
Ruffini said communicators should not be content with the technocratic paradigm.
“It is up to us, as Church, to understand what to do to make our tomorrow better than today, and technology woven with ethics, imbued with that spirit of gratuitousness, gift, and sharing that is the divine breath that animates us,” he said.
He said one can nurture “a sterile connection, deprived of understanding, solidarity, mutual help” or one can rediscover “the communion that unites us.”
“It is up to each of us to show that this is possible and to witness – even on the Web – the beauty of being part of one community,” said the Vatican official.
He added that “by recognizing ourselves as members of one another, by offering our Net as a place for people to truly meet one another, we can bear witness to a different way of living our time, based on gift rather than consumption; on solidarity rather than market; on sharing rather than exclusion.”
Ruffini said that it is “up to us to give back to the Net its most beautiful, most human meaning,” that is “the beauty of encounter, dialogue, knowledge, relationship, (and) sharing.”
In his message during the gathering in Seoul, Pope Francis called on Catholics to counter toxicity in social media, and to engage in dialogue and education to help deal with “lies and misinformation.”
The pontiff said, “the use of digital media, especially social media, has raised a number of serious ethical issues that call for wise and discerning judgment on the part of communicators and all those concerned with the authenticity and quality of human relationships.”
“Sometimes and in some places, media sites have become places of toxicity, hate speech and fake news,” the pope added.
He encouraged Catholic communicators to persevere in efforts to counter these, “paying particular attention to the need to assist people, especially young people, to develop a sound critical sense, learning to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, good from evil, and to appreciate the importance of working for justice, social concord, and respect for our common home.”
The pope also drew attention to “the many communities in our world that remain excluded from the digital space, making digital inclusion a priority.”
In doing so, Catholic communicators provide a “significant contribution to the spread of a culture of peace grounded in the truth of the Gospel,” the Holy Father added. – with a report from CNA