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What is the Church’s understanding on digital evangelisation?

W eventSunday, 25 February 2024

While Pope Paul VI already used the term "Means of Social Communication" in his message for the "World Day of Social Communications" celebrated for the first time on 7 May 1967, it was not until 1983 that the Internet, as we know it, came into being. In the 1990s, the Internet began to enter our homes.

In 1975, in the exortation of Evangelii Nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI had already encouraged the use of the means of social communication, saying, “When they are put at the service of the Gospel, they are capable of increasing almost indefinitely the area in which the Word of God is heard; they enable the Good News to reach millions of people. The Church would feel guilty before the Lord if she did not utilize these powerful means that human skill is daily rendering more perfect (…) In them she finds a modern and effective version of the pulpit. Thanks to them she succeeds in speaking to the multitudes.”

In the mid-1990s, the Internet entered our homes, and John Paul II began to speak of the pastoral work we must do on the Internet. In the encyclical Redemptoris Missio of the same year, he said, “The first Areopagus of the modern age is the world of communications, which is unifying humanity and turning it into what is known as a "global village." (...) it is not enough to use the media simply to spread the Christian message and the Church's authentic teaching. It is also necessary to integrate that message into the ‘new culture’ created by modern communications.”

Pope Benedict XVI, who has written the most about the Internet, taught us how to evangelize on social networks,” To proclaim the Gospel through the new media means not only to insert expressly religious content into different media platforms, but also to witness consistently, in one’s own digital profile and in the way one communicates choices, preferences and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically.” (2011)

But he also warns us that "The culture of social networks and the changes in the forms and styles of communication pose significant challenges to those who want to speak about truth and values. (Extracts from the messages of the 45th and 47th World Communications Days).

Finally, Pope Francis invites us to go further. He teaches us to witness and communicate with our eyes, tone of voice, gestures and words. He urges us not only to build bridges and show that the Church is a home for all, that God's love is universal; these bridges also lead us to meet others. He encourages us to make sure that the Christian message travels, thanks to the digital environment, "all the way to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

To do this, we must:

  1. Keep up to date with trends and be present on social networks, actively listening and sharing.
  2. Translate the Gospel message into the communication style of young people through short, well-structured speeches in simple and direct language.
  3. Use the new media: audiovisual is the most current.