(This article is a short summary of the message of Pope John Paul II for the 36th World Day of Communications, released from the Vatican on January 24, 200internet2, Feast of St. Francis de Sales, Patron of Journalist.)

The theme of the 36th World Communications Day celebrated on May 12, Feast of Our Lord’s Ascension was: Internet: A New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel.

In his message for this occasion, Pope John Paul II asks the following question, “Can the Internet favor the culture of dialogue, participation, solidarity and reconciliation without which peace cannot flourish?” To this question the Pope answers in the affirmative, “The Church believes it can; and to ensure that this is what will happen she is determined to enter this new forum, armed with the Gospel of Christ, the Prince of Peace.”

But the Pope, truly concerned about this new phenomenon, asks with persistence, “How can we ensure that the information and communications revolution which has the Internet as its prime engine will work in favor of the globalization of human development and solidarity, objectives closely linked to the Church’s evangelizing mission?”

In that same message, the Pope made the following observations:

*That the Church must bravely cross this new threshold called Internet just as it had crossed many cultural thresholds, each of which called for fresh energy and imagination in the proclamation of the Gospel.

*To be able to use the Internet for evangelization, the starting point should always be the Holy Spirit.

*The Internet, like all other media instrument, “is not an end in itself,” it is an instrument to serve the human being, and the users must be aware of its strengths and weaknesses, if it is to be used effectively.

*Internet users must take into consideration “realism and confidence.” The Church can help society in moving from a society of information to a society of knowledge so as to lead the people distinguish between the true and the false, reality and illusion.

*No medium of communication can replace direct personal contact and witness. Evangelization in cyberspace must lead to a personal encounter, not the creation of virtual communities, but the “real world of Christian community” in which physical presence is necessary for transmission of values for human and spiritual growth.

*No form of media can replace the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church which provides a “profound experience of God.”

*The Internet “radically redefines a person’s psychological relationship with time and space.” Time and inner serenity enable man to go beyond what he sees and make him understand the meaning of things, to reflect on life and its mysteries, and to mature with greater freedom.

*The Internet offers fleeting message and content. It must be used with great responsibility. Computer science and the Internet must be used for the common good, to avoid inequality and exclusivity, offer values which will protect children and the weakest in society.

The Pope ends his message with this strong recommendation: “Therefore on this World Communications Day, I dare to summon the whole Church bravely to cross this new threshold, to put out into the deep of the Net, so that now as in the past the great engagement of the Gospel and culture may show to the world ‘the glory of God on the face of the earth’ (2 Cor. 4:6). May the Lord bless all who work for this aim.”

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