Pope Benedict XVI today encouraged priests to make good use of digital media to spread the Gospel, and stressed that competence in using it should be part of a seminarian’s formation.

The Holy Father made the statement in his message for the 44th World Communications Day whose theme this year is The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word.

The message was released with tomorrow’s date, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists.

The full text of his message can be found here.

An accompanying message from Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, is here.

The text below struck me as a particularly salient part of the Pope’s message:

“Using new communication technologies, priests can introduce people to the life of the Church and help our contemporaries to discover the face of Christ. They will best achieve this aim if they learn, from the time of their formation, how to use these technologies in a competent and appropriate way, shaped by sound theological insights and reflecting a strong priestly spirituality grounded in constant dialogue with the Lord. Yet priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart, their closeness to Christ. This will not only enliven their pastoral outreach, but also will give a “soul” to the fabric of communications that makes up the “Web”.

God’s loving care for all people in Christ must be expressed in the digital world not simply as an artifact from the past, or a learned theory, but as something concrete, present and engaging. Our pastoral presence in that world must thus serve to show our contemporaries, especially the many people in our day who experience uncertainty and confusion, “that God is near; that in Christ we all belong to one another” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Roman Curia, 21 December 2009).

Who better than a priest, as a man of God, can develop and put into practice, by his competence in current digital technology, a pastoral outreach capable of making God concretely present in today’s world and presenting the religious wisdom of the past as a treasure which can inspire our efforts to live in the present with dignity while building a better future? Consecrated men and women working in the media have a special responsibility for opening the door to new forms of encounter, maintaining the quality of human interaction, and showing concern for individuals and their genuine spiritual needs.”