The Vatican on Monday released a document aimed to promote a common reflection on the engagement of Christians in the digital world.
The 20-page text, “Towards Full Presence: A Pastoral Reflection on Engagement with Social Media,” “is addressed to everyone, not just believers, because social media affects us all,” said Dr. Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication.
Ruffini said the document is “not a practical, functional guideline” but “a theological and pastoral reflection” that offers recommendations for how to become a better social media user.
“This is a time to reflect on how and what to change in order to use the talents of time… and to rediscover the foundations of what we are as Catholics and as human beings eager for true relationships… We will be happy if this pastoral reflection succeeds in opening up space for dialogue,” he said.
The document tackles several topics including how to avoid “pitfalls on the digital highways,” how to “communicate truth,” and “building community in a fragmented world.”
It said, “The question is no longer whether to engage with the digital world, but how.” It also recognizes that social media “in particular is an environment where people interact, share experiences, and cultivate relationships unlike ever before.”
The document, however, warned that “as communication is increasingly influenced by artificial intelligence, there arises the need to rediscover the human encounter at its very core.”
Encouraging more reflection and discernment
The Dicastery for Communication also launched an accompanying microsite Fully Present which also provides a platform for community discussion and reflection.
The community section of the microsite offers resources, such as the Fully Present toolkit, to support discussions at the local level with encouragement for visitors to participate in a “digital coffee” and to tag their reflection with #fullypresent hashtag.
Visitors are also encouraged to collectively create a faith-based social media map by adding by official Church documents, academic publications, events, related to the Pastoral Reflection coming from local Church community.
Evangelization and culture
Msgr. Lucio Adrián Ruiz, secretary general of the dicastery, said the Gospel “is not identical with culture”. However, the priest said the Church “cannot avoid borrowing the elements of human culture” if it wants to pursue propagating the Gospel.
He said the relationship between evangelization and culture is not new “if we look at the history and the lives of missionaries. He said missionaries before going on a mission, “what they did is they learn the language, the customs, and even the beliefs of the people to better communicate the Gospel.”
“John Paul II points out that it is not enough to use the media to spread the message but it is necessary to integrate the message into this new culture,” said Msgr. Ruiz.
The document underscored the need for silence and the need for people to take a break and detach from the digital world once in a while.
“Without silence and the space to think slowly, deeply, and purposefully, we risk losing not only cognitive capacities but also the depth of our interactions, both human and divine,” it said.
It urged the Christian community to be “reflective not reactive on social media” and “be careful not to fall into the digital traps hidden in content that is intentionally designed to sow conflict among users by causing outrage or emotional reactions.”
“We must be mindful of posting and sharing content that can cause misunderstanding, exacerbate division, incite conflict, and deepen prejudices,” it said.