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Pope Urges Respect, Honest Dialogue In Social Media Networks

WASHINGTON—In his message for the 47th World Communications Day, Pope Benedict XVI continues a theme of offering encouragement for Catholics to engage in new media. Written to highlight the Catholic Church’s 2013 World Communications Day, which will be celebrated on May 12 in the United States, the message is titled “Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelization.”

Social networks are the “new ‘agora,’” the pope writes, “an open public square” where “new relationships and forms of community can come into being.” As such, they offer new ways for Christians to introduce the faith to others, as long as they are savvy to the medium.

“The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young,” said Pope Benedict. “Social networks are the result of human interaction, but for their part they also reshape the dynamics of communication which builds relationships: a considered understanding of this environment is therefore the prerequisite for a significant presence there.”

He encourages members of social media networks to consider using more than words in their interaction on the networks. “Effective communication, as in the parables of Jesus, must involve the imagination and the affectivity of those we wish to invite to an encounter with the mystery of God’s love,” he writes.

He also cautions Christians not to get caught up in the rapid and sometimes volatile exchanges that happen within social media networks. “We are called to attentive discernment,” he said, especially in digital networks, “where it is easy for heated and divisive voices to be raised and where sensationalism can at times prevail.”

The entire message is available on the Vatican website by clicking here.

News information provided courtesy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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