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Archbishop Claudio Celli, head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, reflects on the place of new technologies in the Church and the lives of the faithful.
BY EDWARD PENTINROME CORRESPONDENT
Claudio Maria Celli, head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications,
discussed a recent seminar in Rome for bishops responsible for social
communication commissions around the world.
The theme of the conference is “New
Perspectives for Church Communications; Changes in Technology in the Culture of
Communications — a Theological and Pastoral Reflection.”
What are your main hopes for
We are trying to bring together the
bishops in charge of social communications commissions in bishops’ conferences
around the world.
These commissions are present in 82
countries. We’re holding it after the two congresses last year — for the
faculties of social communications at Catholic universities and another for
Catholic radios. Now we have this meeting, which is a necessary reference point
The Holy Father’s theme for his
Message for World Communications Day this year — “New Technologies, New
Relationships” — also promotes a dialogue of respect, understanding and
friendship, and we need to think about this with bishops.
the line of this seminar is very simple: It’s to know exactly what is happening
in the field of new technologies. So there will be a theological and pastoral
reflection on these new technologies, and, afterwards, we will be trying to
discover some pastoral lines for the Church today. Certainly, the Church is
facing different realities. In the U.S. you have one reality, in Africa
The goal is always the same, but
with different attitudes, because to have dialogue with people is always to
have a dialogue with respect. But at the same time, we must discover little by
little that new technologies are creating a new culture and that the Church
feels the need to be present, to have a dialogue, and a fruitful dialogue, with
So this seminar has this goal: to
help bishops discover what is happening, to have a theological and pastoral
reflection, and then to decide what pastoral lines to follow just to help the
Church promote and facilitate such a culture.
So it’s very much an attempt to
carry out and fulfill the Pope’s message?
The idea derived from the Pope’s
message because we really think this is our task. The Holy Father was touching
on a positive point.
We know all the ambiguities and
limits of new technologies, but the Holy Father is offering a positive attitude
toward the new media. But at same time, the Holy Father is always stressing the
new technologies are not only instruments but are creating a new culture. And
this is why, for example, the Holy Father is present on YouTube.
The wish of the Holy Father is to be
there, where the people are. And that’s not only a modern aspect — but, really,
hundreds of millions of people are present on YouTube, on these social
networks. The Holy Father thought it was good to be there, presenting to
everybody who’s looking for truth.
Will the Vatican be taking part
in any new digital technology initiatives like YouTube in the near future?
At this moment, for us, it’s more
important that this can have a certain relevance because the other social
networks are always the same in essence — Facebook and so on.
When I was in Dallas, a lot of
people were thinking of promoting a Catholic social network, especially for the
A sort of Catholic Facebook?
In a certain sense, a Catholic
Facebook. It will appear soon. I think it has already started operations,
little by little.
Is the Vatican supporting it
We’re not supporting it, but,
certainly, we appreciate such an initiative because we know that many people,
especially parents, are worried about what a child, the young generation, can
find on these social networks. Just [recently], the Italian television
presented a problem of small girls, age 13 years, who are chatting and
receiving proposals of a certain kind.
We think it’s necessary to protect
young generations, so we look upon this initiative with favor. We’re not
supporting it because it’s not our task to support it, but, certainly, we’re
looking with favor on such initiatives.
As you know, Cardinal Crecenzio
Sepe has a Facebook page. Do you think it’s a good idea that prelates sign up
on such sites to try and reach out?
You know, Facebook and YouTube are
not the solution to everything.
The way of conversion, rediscovery
of Jesus Christ, certainly can start from a reference point such as YouTube.
But afterwards, they need an encounter with a real community.
That’s just a starting point for
people who are afar, who don’t know too much. They can appreciate, discover a
little bit, but afterwards, you cannot remain only on a virtual level. You need
to open yourself to a real community of disciples of Jesus.
Are you supportive of this
initiative of the Church in Italy to give up texting, Facebook and other
virtual communications for Lent?
I tell you honestly: I like it. It’s
not everything, but I’m not against it. For me, [the Internet] is a way to be
present, to proclaim the Gospel from the rooftops. Why not? But afterwards, to
really experience a meeting with Jesus Christ, you need an encounter with a community.
Edward Pentin writes