There are things that technology can never replace, such as “freedom, encounter, the surprise of the unexpected, conversion, the outburst of ingenuity, gratuitous love.”
This was the message of Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, during the opening of this year’s SIGNIS World Congress in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday, August 16.
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.”
This year’s gathering, which is taking place at Sogang University in Seoul until August 19, carries the theme “Peace in the Digital World.”
In his message, Ruffini noted that the fruit of human ingenuity enables realities “that were unthinkable just a few decades ago,” such as teleconferencing, telemedicine, and e-commerce.
The meeting in Seoul can be attended via the metaverse platform after SIGNIS Korea signed a deal with GG56 Korea, a blockchain-based big data company, in December.
Metaverse is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection.
In science fiction, it is often described as a hypothetical iteration of the Internet as a single, universal virtual world that is facilitated by the use of virtual and augmented reality headsets.
Ruffini said the “paradox” of the time is “we are hyperconnected and also alone.”
“The problem is precisely here: when there is no longer communication, but only connection,” he said, adding that “we need to question ourselves, to make a personal and collective examination of conscience.”
“How is it possible to be simultaneously hyper-connected and terribly alone?” the Vatican official asked in his address.
“What is missing from our connection that can bridge this loneliness, and that is strong enough to endure over time?”
He said the only way to respond to the challenge of technology “is not to think of it as an idol,” but also “not to demonize it.”
“Not to believe that it has the task of redeeming humanity, but also, not to think that its perdition depends on it,” he said.
Ruffini recalled when Pope Francis visited South Korea in 2014 and told a girl during a meeting with young people that “happiness cannot be purchased.”
“Whenever you buy happiness, you soon realize that it has vanished,” the Vatican official quoted the pope. “The happiness you buy does not last. Only the happiness of love is the kind that lasts.”
Ruffini said consumerism “confuses short-term satisfaction for more profound and more lasting happiness.”
“We know that we are not just consumers, let alone objects to be consumed. We know very well that only a relationship — a connection based on love — can make us less lonely, can last, and make us happy,” he said.
He said only love — “the need for love; to love and to be loved; to give and to give oneself — “is the root of all communication.”
Ruffini has been a professional journalist since 1979 and has worked for years in the print media. On July 5, 2018, he was appointed by Pope Francis as Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, which brings together the various media of the Holy See. – with a report from Vatican News