Pope Francis is talking social media, and praising the internet as a “gift from God.” However, he warns that obsession with being connected can isolate people from their friends and family.
The Pontiff made the comments on Thursday as part of a message about Catholic Church communications, analyzing the pros and cons of the digital era in relation to religion and human interactions with others of different faiths and backgrounds.
These latest comments will surely grab the attention of the most conservative members of the curia, as have other statements from Pope Francis.
As the modern man he appears to be, Pope Francis has a Twitter account — in several languages — which he uses often, sometimes multiple times per day to stay connected and share spiritual messages of faith and hope with his more than three-millions followers.
Like Mary, may we nurture the light born within us at Christmas. May we carry it everywhere in our daily lives.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) January 23, 2014
If we live the faith in our daily life, then our work too becomes a chance to spread the joy of being a Christian.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) January 21, 2014
But Pope Francis warns Catholics not to act like the bosses of everyone in this matter.
“To (have a) dialogue means to believe that the ‘other’ has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective. Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the pretense that they alone are valid and absolute.”
For non-Catholics, some of the teachings of the church can be confusing. Pope Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, emphasized that the Catholic Church holds the “fullness of the means of salvation,” which many interpret as Catholics being the only ones that have the key to salvation.
Church teaching also says that those who don’t know Jesus, but seek God, can also find eternal salvation, which can be interpreted as: if you are a good person, you can be saved.
Even though Pope Benedict was a strong supporter of inter-religious dialogue, Pope Francis has gone farther and in one candid comment during a homily said that even atheists can attain the kingdom of God, provided they do the right thing.
“This is something truly good, a gift from God,” Pope Francis wrote about the digital era of communications. But he warned: “The desire for digital connectivity can have the effect of isolating us from our neighbors, from those closest to us.”
He called for communications to be like “a balm which relieves pain and a fine wine which gladdens hearts” but he also advised against pounding others with Christian dogma.
“May the light we bring to others not be the result of cosmetics or special effects, but rather of our being loving and merciful neighbors to those wounded and left on the side of the road,” Pope Francis said.