Pope Francis declares Internet 'a gift from God' - but to beware of trolls
Pontiff, most popular man on the Web, says social media can 'help us feel closer to each other'
By far the most popular man in the world online, Pope Francis declared that the "Internet is a gift from God." However, he did add some words of caution. Tweets, texts and comment streams can cause people to "lose our bearings," the 77-year-old pontiff says.
The Pope warned against spending too much time online, saying the "desire for digital connectivity" can sometimes isolate people from their friends, family and neighbors.
"The Internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity," Francis said. "This is something truly good, a gift from God."
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Pope Francis did acknowledge the down side of 21st century communications. "The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgment, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of self-expression," Francis said.
"The variety of opinions being aired can be seen as helpful," he continued, "but it also enables people to barricade themselves behind sources of information which only confirm their own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests."
Pope Francis' own worldwide popularity can be partially traced to the Internet and social media. Francis was the most talked about person online last year, according to a study released in November.
Whether by chance or design, the Pope has become a shining example for how stories spread in the modern world. Hundreds of thousands of users have shared images and videos of him washing the feet of Muslim inmates, embracing a severely disfigured man and giving his old Argentinean pal a lift on the Popemobile.
"Goodness always tends to spread," Francis said in his apostolic exhortation, "The Joy of the Gospel." Francis' theory of communication seems to derive from his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, who is apocryphally supposed to said, "Preach the Gospel all the time. Use words when necessary."
Rather than "bombarding people with religious messages," the Pope urged Catholics last week to listen patiently and engage their interlocutors' doubts and questions.
"Let our communication be a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts," Francis said.
At the same time, the Pope also warned against spending too much time online, saying the "desire for digital connectivity" can sometimes isolate people from their friends, family and neighbors.
"It is not enough to be passers-by on the digital highways, simply 'connected;' connections need to grow into true encounters," he said.
"We cannot live apart, closed in on ourselves. We need to love and to be loved. We need tenderness. Media strategies do not ensure beauty, goodness and truth in communication."
Pope Francis calls for your 'prayer and action'...
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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