Pope Benedict: Using Language of New Media for Evangelization

Language Shapes How People Think

VATICAN CITY, February 28, 2011 - At midday today, Benedict XVI received participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications who are currently meeting to reflect on the question of language and new technology.

"The new languages being developed in digital communications lead ... to capacities ... tending towards a different logical organisation of our ideas and our relationship with reality." (emphasis added)

The Pope noted how "ideas and relations are always part of the modality of language, understood, naturally, in a broad and not only a verbal sense". In this context he affirmed that "the new languages being developed in digital communications lead, among other things, to capacities that are more intuitive and emotional than analytical, tending towards a different logical organisation of our ideas and our relationship with reality, often privileging images and hypertextual links".

"The risks involved are, of course, visible to everyone: the loss of inner depth, superficiality in relationships, the flight into emotionalism, the prevalence of the most convincing opinion over the desire for truth. This is the consequence of an incapacity to experience, fully and authentically, the significance of the new innovations, and hence the vital importance of reflecting on the languages developed by modern technology".


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Going on then to refer to "digital culture" and the challenges the ecclesial and civil communities have to face in this field, the Holy Father highlighted how "it is not just a question of expressing the Gospel message in modern language, but also of having the courage to give more profound consideration, as happened in other ages, to the relationship between the faith, the life of the Church and the transformations mankind is experiencing". Whence arises "the importance of helping people in positions of responsibility in the Church to understand, interpret and speak the 'new language' of the mass media in their pastoral functions, interacting with the modern world and asking themselves what challenges does so-called 'digital thought' place before faith and theology? What questions does it raise, what requirements does it impose?"

After then highlighting how "digital culture challenges our capacity to speak and listen to a symbolic language of transcendence", the Pope noted that "today we are called to discover, also in digital culture, symbols and significant metaphors which may be of help in speaking of the Kingdom of God to modern man".

"The appeal to spiritual values", the Pope concluded, "will facilitate the promotion of a truly human form of communication. Over and above any facile enthusiasm or scepticism, we know that this is a response to the call imprinted into our nature as beings created in the image and likeness of the God of communion. ... The contribution made by believers can, then, be useful to the world of the mass media, opening horizons of meaning and value which digital culture alone is incapable of seeing or representing".

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