Pope Francis Celebrates Internet As ‘A Gift From God’

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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The pontiff says we should continue using social media, despite the ‘violent aggression’ of advertising

Pope Francis has called on the faithful to get online and make the Internet a more supportive place, calling it a “gift from God.”

In his address on the World Communications Day, the leader of the Catholic Church discussed problems such as digital exclusion, aggressive promotion of consumption and lack of genuine human contact on the Web. But despite these drawbacks, Pope Francis said people should not reject social media. Instead, they should learn to listen and be “neighbourly” in their use of digital technology and online communications.

“The Internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God,” said the Pope.

A better Internet

The Catholic Church has been celebrating the World Communications Day since 1967. It was originally dedicated to the promotion of Gospel through the media, but in recent years, the focus has somewhat shifted to the Internet.

ElnurThe actual Communications Day is not until June, but the Pope has already posted a speech in which he discusses the issues of the online world. Even though the pontiff seems genuinely excited by the capabilities of modern technology, he highlighted several issues with the way it is used.

“The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgement, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of self-expression.  The variety of opinions being aired can be seen as helpful, 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.

“The world of communications can help us either to expand our knowledge or to lose our bearings.  The desire for digital connectivity can have the effect of isolating us from our neighbours, from those closest to us.  We should not overlook the fact that those who for whatever reason lack access to social media run the risk of being left behind.”

Pope Francis called the onslaught of advertising messages online “a form of violent aggression”, but said that Internet users could fight back by supporting each other, and having frequent personal encounters instead of just being “connected”.

“The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people,” said Pope Francis.

“The revolution taking place in communications media and in information technologies represents a great and thrilling challenge; may we respond to that challenge with fresh energy and imagination as we seek to share with others the beauty of God.”

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