VATICAN - PMS Assembly: Communication networks require an authentic conversion from everyone

Tuesday, 29 May 2018 pontifical mission societies

Sacrofano (Agenzia Fides) - Pauline Jaricot, founder of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, can be considered the pioneer of the network, because she understood, at only 19 years of age, that "one of the great problems experienced by missionaries in mission countries regarded the economic limits ... She knew that there is nothing more powerful than the force generated by networks of people united by the same ideal ... She had simply understood the power of social networks and gave life to the first global social network". This is what Jesus Colina, president and editorial director of Aleteia, said during his conference entitled "Digital Revolution, Challenges and Opportunities for Missionary Animation" at the General Assembly of the PMS, which began its work yesterday at the Fraterna Domus in Sacrofano, near Rome (see Fides 25/05/2018).
Questioning those present on what Pauline Jaricot would do today in the era of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, the web ... he replied that "her ability to create networks would have strenghtened in an explosive way". He then presented some significant data on the use of the Internet and social networks and their anthropological implications, stating that "we are faced with an immense anthropological impact", so we must ask ourselves: "How does all this affect the missionary work of the church?". Colina drew the attention on "How to make God present on the net? How to awaken missionary commitment?".
"Frequently we find baptized persons who recognize that they would like to share their faith, but they confess that they do not know how to do it", said Colina. These people can become missionaries through networks "if someone helps them: if they are presented with interesting, easy to share contents".
"Communication networks - he continued - requires an authentic conversion from all of us, which in our case we could call pastoral or missionary. We often run the risk of thinking that, since we proclaim the Truth, everyone should listen to us. There are no such arguments in the network", he highlighted, explaining the three actions necessary for this conversion: Listening, that is "social listening" to know which are the most sought after topics, most shared in the network; Going out to meet, that is, finding people who need someone who speaks to them of God; Accompanying, referring to the time we dedicate to people.
Referring to the missionary encyclical "Redemptoris Missio", he highlighted: "It is very curious, almost prophetic, that the most important and virtuous passage of the entire papal magisterium on communication networks was expressed in this encyclical" where it states: "Involvement in the mass media, however, is not meant merely to strengthen the preaching of the Gospel... 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". Recalling that "Benedict XVI lived this legacy in a coherent way", he underlined how Pope Francis has asked the Church, on numerous occasions, "to be a companion in the journey of the life of the people it reaches through its own means of communication".
Finally, Colina recalled that, in the past, the Pontifical Mission Societies were an example of how communication can be used to reawaken the missionary commitment, citing as examples the letters of Pauline Jaricot, the first audiovisual testimonies realized by the missionaries or mission magazines. But "the digital revolution we witnessed over the last few decades seems to have caught us all by surprise. We have continued to rely on traditional means of raising awareness and fundraising". Perhaps we have stayed out of the digital revolution. In this sense we can say that the Pontifical Mission Societies are in a historical moment: will they have the pastoral creativity of renewing themselves in the digital age and will they allow God and the mission to remain relevant in the lives of millions of people?" (LG) (Agenzia Fides, 29/05/2018)