Fr. Salobir: Innovation and tradition must go hand in hand

Father Eric Salobir, a Dominican communications professional and president of the Human Technology Foundation's executive committee, speaks to Vatican News about a two-day 'Innovation' conference in Rome, and says tradition is a treasure which completes innovation perfectly.

By Devin Watkins and Deborah Castellano Lubov

Tradition and innovation must work together to construct the future.

French Dominican Father Eric Salobir, president of the the Human Technology Foundation's executive committee, made this observation in an interview with Vatican News.

Created in 2012, the Foundation is a research and action network placing the human being at the heart of technology development, according to the organization's website.

The company, which has several thousand members and operates in Paris, Montreal and Geneva, the Dominican priest explained, "was created to contribute to the development of technologies for the common good and to benefit people."

A learning experience for French CEOs in Rome

Fr. Salobir discussed the special Rome-edition of the 'Innovation' conference, held 20-21 October in the Italian capital.

The event was jointly-organized by the Human Technology Foundation; Villa Medici, the French Academy in Rome; and the Napoleons Venture Philanthropy Endowment Fund. 

"We wanted to organize a kind of learning expedition for French CEOs here in Rome and in the Vatican to put them in contact with people from the Vatican," said Fr. Salobir, in order to offer senior executives an opportunity to engage with the Church in a conversation about innovation.

“The point was to help them to discover that tradition and innovation are not opposed. Very often we consider that if you follow tradition, you just 'copy and paste' the past, and you will never innovate. You will never do something new.”

In Latin, he recalled, "we say, 'Nihil mutavit' which means nothing has to change. But that's not the way tradition is."

Fr. Eric Salobir, OP
Fr. Eric Salobir, OP

Tradition and innovation working together

Rather, noted Fr. Salobir, both ancient civilizations and our contemporary society have always taken what came before and adapted it to meet current needs.

“Tradition is a treasure, and we take things from the past to answer the questions of the future.”

Even in ancient Rome, he recalled, people took the stones of the old monuments to build new monuments.

"That's exactly how tradition works," Fr. Salobir explained. "It's not like a blank page. You cannot build, innovate, or create from scratch."

Entrepreneurs, innovators, scientists and technology experts, he added, all take elements from the past, choosing them carefully "as the perfect stones or bricks to build" their new objective.

He expressed gratitude for representatives of the Dicastery for Communication who spoke at the event, including Msgr. Lucio Ruiz, Secretary of the Dicastery.

Fr. Salobir pointed out that the Vatican employs modern tools to enable better promotion of the Word of God and the Gospel. He offered the example of Sr. Nathalie Becquart, Under-Secretary of the Synod of Bishops, who offered valuable insight into the ongoing synodal process.

"It was interesting to have this conversation between those CEOs running tech companies on one side, and people coming from the Vatican who could be seen as very traditional, but who actually are not that traditional, because they were already involved in this process of innovation."

Pope Francis as an inspiration

As a media professional, Fr. Salobir shared ways Pope Francis inspires him personally, saying the Pope shows that media are only the tools for communication and not the message itself.

“The Pope is so charismatic because he is so authentic.”

That authenticity, he highlighted, is very valuable and key to the Pope's message and personality.

The Pope's outreach to the under- or less-privileged, according to Fr. Salobir, should empower us to follow suit. "Pope Francis," he said, "takes the time to go further, to to the border, to the limit, and reach out to the ones who really need the help." 

"This authenticity," concluded Fr. Salobir, "is a really valuable example of communication, whether it be in the media, but also in interpersonal communications, in evangelization, or even preaching as a priest."

Listen to the full interview

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22 October 2022, 11:37