07/07/2015, 00.00
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Evangelisation "can also take place on the Internet,” especially in Asia

Participants in a major international conference in Hong Kong reflected upon the use of cyberspace in proclaiming the Word. Organised by the Online School of Evangelisation led by Fr Giampietro, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, the event was a success. For him, the Internet is a powerful “tool” for the mission, and priests must realise this. Whenever “two or three people gather in His name, then Christ is with them. This also applies online.”

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Evangelisation "can also take place on the Internet, the cyberspace that not everyone knows or understands. For this reason, the Church, especially in Asia, must reflect on the best use of the Net in proclaiming the Word. Pastors must be convinced that there is nothing wrong with this. Above all we must stop opposing the 'real' to the 'virtual'. These worlds can coexist and produce good results,” said Fr Giovanni Giampietro, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions who has lived in Hong Kong since 1958.

For the past ten years, the priest has run the Online School of Evangelisation. "I 'converted' to the Internet about 13 years ago. Now I am in my eighties,” he told AsiaNews. “Once I fought the web for ideological reasons. Then I realised its potential and totally changed my mind.”

“The Conference held in late June was meant to present the results of this experience, but above it was designed to raise greater awareness in the Christian community that the cyberspace is a reality that must be kept in mind, also when it comes to the mission. "

Delegates from 13 Asian countries attended the meeting held at the Diocesan Centre.

"More and more people are living in this virtual space,” Fr Giampietro said. “The purpose of the meeting, organised by the school and the Hong Kong Centre for Social Communications, was to reflect on how to use it from a missionary point of view. For some, this was something secondary; however, it should not be like this.”

During the meeting, “We focused on how to create online communities of faith, communities that can renew themselves because in today's world the big problem is to bring people together. Here in Asia everyone is very busy, more than in Europe I think. If they find free time, they go online."

This is why, the PIME missionary said, "it is necessary to take cyberspace seriously. Our school has shown with facts that it is possible to create true communities of faith in this space. During the conference, one of our students (who later became a catechist) spoke about how she experienced the online community. It was a very beautiful story, truer than so many theories".

Given the situation, it is important to stress that "these online communities of faith can renew the parish’s pastoral ministry. Indeed, let me stress this point: we are not talking about replacing actual parishes; it is not about opposing the real to the virtual. What is virtual can be real, if it is done well.”

In fact, “Not only myself but everyone at the Conference was convinced that wherever two or three people gather in His name, then Christ is with them. This also applies online. No one wants to 'replace' face-to-face meetings, but rather enhance them with a new tool."

From this point of view, it is essential to train people, especially priests. "When a priest understands how things work and realises the value of our courses, admission to the catechumenate is granted. This is nice because we go from the virtual to the real.”

“We have a two-year programme linked to the catechumen’s parish. After one is admitted comes the election, and all the canonical rites. The catechumen lives in community, where he receives the baptism. Then he comes back to us, for five months of mystagogy. Contacts with the parish continue. It is important to be aware of this reality."

At present, “the Internet is increasingly seen as a fridge, where the thirsty go for their favourite drink,” said the missionary. “However, those who use this virtual fridge have no interpersonal relations. Our aim is to reach a deeper level, that of uniting users who have a common goal and turn them into a group."

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“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”