Pope Says Early Christians a Model for ‘Digital Age’ Church

Pope Francis said that while ‘the Internet is not enough,’ the Church’s presence there is ‘indispensible.’

Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.
Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square. (photo: Kyle Burkhart/CNA)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis met with members of the Pontifical Council for the Laity on Saturday, who had gathered to discuss the theme “Announcing Christ in the Digital Age.”

“The Internet is a widespread reality, complex and in continual evolution, and its development reproposes the ever-present question of the relationship between faith and culture,” the Pope told participants of the council’s 26th plenary assembly.

“Already during the first centuries of Christianity, the Church wanted to face the extraordinary heritage of the Greek culture. Facing a very profound philosophy and an educational method of exceptional value, but soaked in pagan elements, the [early Christian] Fathers were not closed to debate; but on the other hand, neither did they surrender to compromise with certain ideas contrary to faith,” the Pope explained.

“They knew, rather, to identify and assimilate the more elevated concepts, transforming them from the inside by the light of the word of God,” he said.

The Holy Father linked this approach to that of St. Paul, who wrote, “Examine everything, and keep what is good.”

“Between the opportunities and the dangers of the network, it is necessary to ‘examine everything,’ conscious that we will find counterfeits, dangerous illusions and snares to be avoided,” he cautioned.

“But, guided by the Holy Spirit, we will also discover precious opportunities to lead mankind to the luminous face of the Lord.”

Pope Francis then explained the challenges in digital communications faced by the Church.

“Amongst the possibilities,” he noted, “the most important regards the announcement of the Gospel.” Moreover, “it’s not sufficient to acquire technological competence, although that is important.”

Rather, at the crux, “it is a matter, first of all, of meeting real women and men, often injured or lost, in order to offer them real reasons for hope.”

This announcement of the Gospel, Pope Francis said, cannot happen apart from “authentic and direct human relationships,” which then lead to “a personal meeting with the Lord.” Therefore, said the Pope, “the Internet is not enough; technology is not sufficient.”

“This is not to say that the presence of the Church on the Internet is useless; on the contrary, it is indispensable to be present, always with evangelical style,” he noted. 

Pope Francis said the Church’s presence is necessary because the Internet “has become for everyone, especially for youth, a kind of environment of life.” The Church’s presence there can serve “to awaken the irrepressible questions of the heart, about the meaning of life, and to indicate the way that leads to him who is rest, the Divine Mercy made flesh, the Lord Jesus.”

The Pope closed his audience by thanking the members of the Pontifical Council for the Laity for their work.

“Dear friends, the Church is always in a journey, to search again for new ways to announce the Gospel,” he said. “The contribution and witness of the lay faithful reveals itself more every day to be indispensable.”