Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

The Pope Weighs In on Digital Culture

by Cally Carswell 

Tags: Spirituality, religion, Catholicism, Pope Benedict XVI, the Vatican, online friendship, Articles of Faith,

As the Vatican launched its own YouTube channel, the Pope tempered his embrace of new media with a contemplation on the meaning of friendship in an increasingly digital world. His thoughts were included in a letter that cautioned against the marginalization of offline relationships:

The concept of friendship has enjoyed a renewed prominence in the vocabulary of the new digital social networks that have emerged in the last few years. The concept is one of the noblest achievements of human culture. It is in and through our friendships that we grow and develop as humans. For this reason, true friendship has always been seen as one of the greatest goods any human person can experience. We should be careful, therefore, never to trivialize the concept or the experience of friendship. It would be sad if our desire to sustain and develop on-line friendships were to be at the cost of our availability to engage with our families, our neighbours and those we meet in the daily reality of our places of work, education and recreation. If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development.

But while the Pope points out the spiritual shortcomings of cyberspace, he’s plugged in enough to recognize its potential to spread the gospel. He concludes his letter by encouraging young Catholics “to bring the witness of their faith to the digital world,” and, “to introduce into the culture of this new environment of communications and information technology the values on which you have built your lives.”

(Thanks, Articles of Faith.)