Pope: A social web complementary to encounters in the flesh and blood
In the Message for the 53rd World Communications Day, Pope Francis underlines the values, but also the problems that arise from the network: it is a "source of knowledge", but based on "weak links"; identity is affirmed by challenging others, labelling them "enemies". It is necessary to "guard the truth" and "to consider enemies as people". A model of the Trinity.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "The use of the social web is complementary to an encounter in the flesh that comes alive through the body, heart, eyes, gaze, breath of the other": this is what Pope emphasizes Francis in his Message for the 53rd World Communications Day, released yesterday, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists. The Day is celebrated on the Solemnity of the Ascension, which this year falls on June 2nd.
In the text, entitled "We are members of one another" (Eph 4:25). From social network communities to the human community ", Francis once again encourages the use of the web as a" resource "that opens up to the" extension "of the real relationship, to the search for" good in the rediscovery of what unites us ".
Thus it is important to understand the ambiguous nature of the network. "The Net is a resource of our time. It is a source of knowledge and relationships that were once unthinkable". At the same time, it has proven "to be one of the areas most exposed to disinformation and to the conscious and targeted distortion of facts and interpersonal relationships, which are often used to discredit".
"In the best cases, these virtual communities are able to demonstrate cohesion and solidarity, but often they remain simply groups of individuals who recognize one another through common interests or concerns characterized by weak bonds. Moreover, in the social web identity is too often based on opposition to the other, the person outside the group: we define ourselves starting with what divides us rather than with what unites us, giving rise to suspicion and to the venting of every kind of prejudice (ethnic, sexual, religious and other). This tendency encourages groups that exclude diversity, that even in the digital environment nourish unbridled individualism which sometimes ends up fomenting spirals of hatred. In this way, what ought to be a window on the world becomes a showcase for exhibiting personal narcissism."
The network also risks to satisfy the desire to meet others only in a virtual sense, giving rise to the so-called "social hermits" that risk completely estrangement from society ".
Taking a cue from a phrase of St. Paul ("We are members of one another" - Eph 4:25), the Pope outlines an anthropology that corrects the displacements of the network.
First of all, telling the truth: "the duty to guard the truth springs from the need not to belie the mutual relationship of communion. Truth is revealed in communion. Lies, on the other hand, are a selfish refusal to recognize that we are members of one body; they are a refusal to give ourselves to others, thus losing the only way to find ourselves".
Secondly, considering the other as part of my own identity: "This helps us not to see people as potential competitors, but to consider even our enemies as persons".
"The present context calls on all of us to invest in relationships, and to affirm the interpersonal nature of our humanity, including in and through the network. All the more so, we Christians are called to manifest that communion which marks our identity as believers. Faith itself, in fact, is a relationship, an encounter; and under the impetus of God’s love, we can communicate, welcome and understand the gift of the other and respond to it.".
The Pope cites as a model of this relationship, the Trinity: "The present context calls on all of us to invest in relationships, and to affirm the interpersonal nature of our humanity, including in and through the network. All the more so, we Christians are called to manifest that communion which marks our identity as believers. Faith itself, in fact, is a relationship, an encounter; and under the impetus of God’s love, we can communicate, welcome and understand the gift of the other and respond to it.
And concluding, he reiterates that it is necessary to open "the way for dialogue, for encounter, for “smiles” and expressions of tenderness... This is the network we want, a network created not to entrap, but to liberate, to protect a communion of people who are free. The Church herself is a network woven together by Eucharistic communion, where unity is based not on “likes”, but on the truth, on the “Amen”, by which each one clings to the Body of Christ, and welcomes others."