Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Papal Message for World Communications Day

2009 marks the 43d World Communications Day. The papal message noting it was subtitled, "New Technologies, New Relationships. Promoting a Culture of Respect, Dialogue and Friendship."

Early in his message Pope Benedict named three new technologies: "mobile telephones and computers...and...the internet." The pope recognized that young people have capitalized on them and
have grasped the enormous capacity of the new media to foster connectedness, communication and understanding between individuals and communities, and they are turning to them as means of communicating with existing friends, of meeting new friends, of forming communities and networks, of seeking information and news, and of sharing their ideas and opinions. Many benefits flow from this new culture of communication: families are able to maintain contact across great distances; students and researchers have more immediate and easier access to documents, sources and scientific discoveries, hence they can work collaboratively from different locations; moreover, the interactive nature of many of the new media facilitates more dynamic forms of learning and communication, thereby contributing to social progress.
"Social progress" has been a recurring theme of popes. In the modern era Popes Leo XIII noted the changes in labor technologies, both their ability to enhance progress as well as the dangers inherent if they were allowed to control and objectify humans. He devoted an encyclical (a circular letter of a pope to the faithful, and in modern times, extended to "people of good will") "of new things" (opening words in the Latin) that were affecting capital and labor, caused, in part, by then-new new technologies.

In the last century Pope Paul VI devoted an encyclical to "The Progress of Peoples."

[Encyclicals are long: one-screen summaries are available for The Progress of Peoples--Summary and Of New Things--Summary are helpful.]

What began in the 18th and 19th Centuries in Europe and the United States as development, although not everyone shared its effects, had become worldwide in the 20th Century. Pope Paul noted this world-wide feature. Even in the 16th Century, the Age of Exploration, development was limited to the stronger and wealthier nations. Those nations took for themselves the resources of new-found lands, inhabited by native peoples. The practice continues into the present.

In his message this year Pope Benedict emphasized the "many benefits" of communications technologies: "communicating with existing friends, of meeting new friends, of forming communities and networks, of seeking information and news, and of sharing their ideas and opinions." This blessing of the internet comes from a pope fully aware of the harmful things present in the new communication (indeed, all) technologies.

In a lecture given shortly before World Communications Day, 24 May 2009, Director of the Vatican Press Office, Fr. Frederico Lombardi, S.J., both echoed Pope Benedict's emphasis on friendship and dialogue, and recalled when Fr. Lombardi directed a television broadcast for Pope John Paul II, who was amazed at its power and cried, "Blessed be television!"

God works with the internet to promote communion among all peoples. The church does not desire to be estranged from the net.
Wiki-image of Mat Honan's photo is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

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