“The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word,” is the theme for the XLIV World Communications Day to be held on the Solemnity of the Ascension. The Pope invites priests to be missionaries in the new digital continent. Fr Filiberto González, Councillor for Social Communication, speaks to Salesians and educators looking at the theme in the light of the Ascension.
As well as the geographical ones there is a new “continent”, the digital one! It is not a limited area but covers the whole world. We are told by those who should know that shortly it will be the most populated; especially by youngsters and young adults: they are the “digital citizens”. A young “continent” which cannot leave Salesians and educators indifferent. We cannot ignore it nor lament it. It is a new age which as the Pope says, offers the Church great opportunities to bring the Gospel to those who do not yet know it.
In this continent, where new rules guide the search for truth, there is a new culture, a new way of relating to nature, to others and to God; and, as it rapidly evolves, it involves us. We have to decide whether to be tourists or missionaries; the first are just passing through, looking, and taking what appeals to them, the others feel that they are being sent and take flesh and blood there.
The Pope exhorts priests, in this year dedicated to them, to be pastors of the digital world. The commission entrusted by Jesus to his disciples before ascending into heaven – “you are to be my witnesses to the ends of the earth” – is a stimulus to Salesians and educators to enter this “new world” in a open fashion without allowing themselves to be “swallowed up” by it in an uncritical manner.
From Jerusalem and from Galilee the first witnesses of Jesus set out. We are being called to arrive at this new frontier bringing with us a pastoral approach to the digital world because as the Pope says: “it brings us into contact with the followers of other religions, non-believers and people of every culture, requires sensitivity to those who do not believe, the disheartened and those who have a deep, unarticulated desire for enduring truth and the absolute.”
The first witnesses of Jesus went on foot, then on horseback, on ships, in carriages, in cars, in aircraft; today there are fibre optics, satellites and digital technology, and with missionary zeal, the desire to live for God and for the salvation of the young passionately as Don Bosco did. Being faithful to the Gospel, to the mission of the Church and to the Salesian charism urges us to be present in this new continent. Let is make our own, as the Pope exhorts us, the words of Saint Paul: ““Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1Cor 9,16).
A different kind of formation is needed, more sound and deed. As the Pope reminds us: “At the same time, priests must always bear in mind that the ultimate fruitfulness of their ministry comes from Christ himself, encountered and listened to in prayer; proclaimed in preaching and lived witness; and known, loved and celebrated in the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation.”
In this way we will be able to help today’s young people to discover the face of Christ, combining the appropriate and competent use of the media, of language, acquired also in the period of formation, with a sound theological preparation and a deep religious and/or priestly spirituality, nourished by constant prayer and union with the Lord. It is up to us to make our hearts as consecrated persons apparent, so as to give a spirit not only to our apostolate but also to the non-stop flow of communication on the “net” and to the communities in the “digital continent.”
I finish with the words of the Pope in his message: “To my dear brother priests, (religious, educators), then, I renew the invitation to make astute use of the unique possibilities offered by modern communications. May the Lord make all of you enthusiastic heralds of the Gospel in the new “agorà” which the current media are opening up.”
Source: ANS Info