ASIA/CHINA - "Signs of the Times": Social Media Mission

Monday, 17 October 2022 local churches   evangelization   mission   media   social network   pastoral  

by Marta Zhao
Beijing (Agenzia Fides) - For years, the daily life of a large part of the Chinese population has been characterized by the use of the news app "Wechat" from the Chinese company "Tencent Holdings". The company, founded in 1998, has specialized in the development of Internet services. “Wechat” is now installed on almost every Chinese mobile phone and has become a communication and information tool used by Chinese both at home and abroad. People use the app to pay for groceries, get the result of the coronavirus test, and download the relevant certificate that certifies immunity.
As for the use of "Wechat", the Chinese Catholic communities have also recognized the signs of the times and "Wechat" has become a valuable and reliable tool when it comes to spreading news about the initiatives and events affecting the everyday church life in the ministry of proclaiming the gospel. This modern technological tool, used above all by the younger generations, has thus "updated" in its own way the image of the usual pastoral dynamics of parishes and ecclesial communities. The "Wechat" accounts of parishes and church groups are often used by youth, who in this way personally participate in the mission of the church by sharing spiritual content, prayers and community programs with their peers.
Dioceses, parishes, church groups and associations have their own "Wechat" accounts, which they update daily. On the individual accounts you will find information about catechism courses, references to liturgies and community prayers (rosary, commemoration of the dead, etc.), representations of the Christian faith also through works of art, posters of parish initiatives. Those responsible for church accounts create striking images and video clips that become new tools to convey the gift of faith received, using languages and expressions that are considered familiar, especially to younger generations.
The Parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in the Archdiocese of Beijing, for example, accompanies the beginning of the Day of the Faithful with a passage from the Holy Scriptures published on Wechat. On October 7th, the day of Our Lady of the Rosary, suggestive sacred images, music videos and the text for the rosary prayer were published on the parish account, along with videos with sacred hymns and the text to accompany the prayer of the Holy Rosary. The publication of the texts and images with hymns via Wechat has not led to a sometimes not undisputed "digitalization" of parish life, on the contrary, many young people, after seeing texts and images on the Wechat account, went to the parish to participate in person in the prayer of the Rosary. For some of them, this participation has become an opportunity to rediscover the beautiful history of the parish, and to share this new knowledge through their personal accounts, pictures and small video clips taken at the church, which is also a testament that apps can be valuable and useful when they become tools of an ecclesial life careful to use even the most modern means to proclaim the Gospel.
The Archdiocese of Beijing now uses "Wechat" as a normal tool to communicate its pastoral and liturgical program and also offers practical advice on church activities and appointments. For example, this Monday, October 17, the Archdiocese's Wechat account published the program for the Day of Remembrance of the Dead (November 2), including the times of the various Masses to be celebrated in the two Catholic cemeteries of the Archdiocese metropolis to be celebrated. (Agenzia Fides, 17/10/2022)