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Truth, proclamation and authenticity of life in the digital age

Matthew Harrison

Monday, January 24, 2011

Today marks the feast of St. Francis de Sales, who also happens to be the patron saint of journalists.
It is on this day that the Pope traditionally publishes his message for the World Day of Communications.
This year, the message takes the theme "Truth, proclamation and authenticity of life in the digital age."
In it Pope Benedict praises the new possibilities of connecting with people and sharing information. But he also warns of some limits:
... the one-sidedness of the interaction, the tendency to communicate only some parts of one’s interior world, the risk of constructing a false image of oneself, which can become a form of self-indulgence.
And he offers some important questions to reflect upon in the digital world of social communication:
Who is my "neighbour" in this new world? Does the danger exist that we may be less present to those whom we encounter in our everyday life? Is there is a risk of being more distracted because our attention is fragmented and absorbed in a world "other" than the one in which we live? Do we have time to reflect critically on our choices and to foster human relationships which are truly deep and lasting?
The Pope challenges Christians to be present in the digital world.  He says this takes the form of communication which is honest and open, responsible and respectful of others.
Believers who bear witness to their most profound convictions greatly help prevent the web from becoming an instrument which depersonalizes people, attempts to manipulate them emotionally or allows those who are powerful to monopolize the opinions of others. On the contrary, believers encourage everyone to keep alive the eternal human questions which testify to our desire for transcendence and our longing for authentic forms of life, truly worthy of being lived. It is precisely this uniquely human spiritual yearning which inspires our quest for truth and for communion and which impels us to communicate with integrity and honesty.
The 45th World Communications Day will be celebrated on June 5th this year.  See the full text of the Pope's message below:
Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age
June 5, 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On the occasion of the 45th World Day of Social Communications, I would like to share some reflections that are motivated by a phenomenon characteristic of our age: the emergence of the internet as a network for communication. It is an ever more commonly held opinion that, just as the Industrial Revolution in its day brought about a profound transformation in society by the modifications it introduced into the cycles of production and the lives of workers, so today the radical changes taking place in communications are guiding significant cultural and social developments. The new technologies are not only changing the way we communicate, but communication itself, so much so that it could be said that we are living through a period of vast cultural transformation. This means of spreading information and knowledge is giving birth to a new way of learning and thinking, with unprecedented opportunities for establishing relationships and building fellowship.
New horizons are now open that were until recently unimaginable; they stir our wonder at the possibilities offered by these new media and, at the same time, urgently demand a serious reflection on the significance of communication in the digital age.
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CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec

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