By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
“The difficult period humanity is going through because of the pandemic has made it clear not only that we will come out of this crisis if we come out of it together, but it has made us realize how useful technological tools and social networks can be.”
Pope Francis made that remark in the preface of a new book titled “The Church in the Digital” (La Chiesa nel Digitale), edited by Fabio Bolzetta and published by Tau Editrice.
The book was born from the experience of the Association of Italian Catholic Webmasters (WECA) and offers tools and proposals to discover, reflect upon, and share on social networks the experience of the Church which is also present in the digital world.
The Church during the pandemic
In the preface, Pope Francis highlights the challenges the Church faced during the periods of lockdown during the pandemic, noting that it was no longer possible to celebrate the Eucharist together or to be close to our sick loved ones, putting us in confrontation with our “constitutive fragility.”
He also points at the many efforts employed to keep human and community relationships alive, including the priests who made use of technologies and social networks to keep God’s people in touch with His word and offer the possibility of attending Mass online. In fact, the Pope said, social networks were used to “keep in touch, to report needs, to keep us from feeling alone, to activate charitable initiatives, to keep seeing each other's faces as we waited to meet again.”
During this time also, the Holy Father notes that there were also “mistakes and errors,” but the important thing is that “when these attempts put the message to be communicated at the center, instead of the protagonism of the communicator, we must recognize that they were useful.”
More so, according to experts, some of the changes that have taken place because of the more frequent use of technology for virtual encounters are likely to remain long after the pandemic emergency is over, the Pope said.
Tutorials for formation on digital communication
The Holy Father underlines the work of the Association of Italian Catholic Webmasters (WECA) which, over the past two years, has met and helped priests of all ages who are committed, even through new technologies, to keep the communities entrusted to them united, thereby promoting the growth of the use of digital tools in pastoral care.
Thus, the book offers dozens of tutorials on the Church and digital communications, designed especially for priests whose generosity and spontaneity during the pandemic emergency must now be accompanied by appropriate training.
The web: a space for meeting and listening
Although virtual encounters do not and can never replace the beauty of face-to-face encounters, Pope Francis points out that the digital world is also inhabited by Christians who “can be protagonists of new forms of social and more human communication, more capable of listening and true sharing.”
This is because the web can also become “a space for meeting and listening,” even though sometimes the voices that shout the loudest and the pollution of fake news seem to prevail.”
“The web will not make us feel alone if we are really able to ‘network,’ and if the virtual space does not replace but helps the web of our flesh-and-blood social relationships,” the Pope said.