- (Photo: REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito)
Pope Francis said in a papal statement Thursday that the Internet is a "gift from God" that brings humanity closer together, thus promoting universal solidarity.
"A culture of encounter demands that we be ready not only to give, but also to receive," Francis said in the papal statement released Thursday. "Media can help us greatly in this, especially nowadays, when the networks of human communication have made unprecedented advances. The Internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity."
"The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity, a network not of wires but of people," Francis continued.
"This is something truly good," he added. "A gift from God." Francis was quick to point out that although he admires the Internet's ability to connect people, it can also prove equally effective in isolating those who are not up-to-date on the latest technological trends.
"The desire for digital connectivity can have the effect of isolating us from our neighbors, from those closest to us. We should not overlook the fact that those who for whatever reason lack access to social media run the risk of being left behind. While these drawbacks are real, they do not justify rejecting social media; rather, they remind us that communication is ultimately a human rather than technological achievement."
Francis expounded on the dangers of the Internet, adding: "The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgment, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of self-expression."
Pope Francis made his remarks in honor of the Roman Catholic Church's World Communications Day. The church has, in recent years, become more involved in promoting itself through social media, including launching a papal Twitter handle, a Facebook page, and a Catholic news app. Francis' predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, was the first pope to use Twitter, and Pope John II also spoke highly of the Internet, except he focused more on the opportunity for Christians to evangelize via the Internet.
"The Internet can offer magnificent opportunities for evangelization if used with competence and a clear awareness of its strengths and weaknesses," John Paul II said at the World Communications Day in 2001.
Francis also echoed this sentiment on Thursday, saying the Internet was an opportune method of connecting people to God. "As I have frequently observed, if a choice has to be made between a bruised church which goes out to the streets and a church suffering from self-absorption, I certainly prefer the first," he said, adding that the "digital highway is a "street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope."