Vatican City (Vatican Radio) - In response to numerous queries as to whether the Holy Father's twitter account will be permanently shut down following his resignation, Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications issued the following statement:
The Twitter account @pontifex was created for the exclusive use of the Pope.
@pontifex will be inactive during the interim period between the renouncement of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of his successor (sede vacante).
@pontifex will be available for use by the next Pope as he may wish.
Vatican City (CNS) -- Social media need to promote more logic, kindness and Christian witness than bluster, star-status and division, Pope Benedict XVI said.
Given that the online world exposes people to a wider range of opinions and beliefs, people need to accept the existence of these other cultures, "be enriched by it" and offer others what "they possess that is good, true and beautiful," the pope said.
Christians are called to bring truth and values to the whole world -- online and off -- remembering that it's ultimately the power of God's word that touches hearts, not sheer human effort, he said in his message for World Communications Day.
The theme of the 2013 celebration -- marked in most dioceses the Sunday before Pentecost, this year May 12 -- is "Social Networks: Portals of Truth and Faith; New Spaces for Evangelization." The papal message was released on the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists, Jan. 24.
Social media "need the commitment of all who are conscious of the value of dialogue, reasoned debate and logical argumentation," the pope said.
Social forums need to be used wisely and well, which means fostering balanced and respectful dialogue and debate, he said, and paying special attention to "privacy, responsibility and truthfulness."
Too often, popularity -- garnered either from fame or strategic powers of persuasion -- determines the "significance and effectiveness" of online communication, not "intrinsic importance or value," he said.
Catholics can "show their authenticity" by sharing their hope and joy, and its source in Jesus Christ. Catholics also should give witness by the way they live their lives and how their "choices, preferences and judgments" are fully consistent with the Gospel, he added.
Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, told reporters during a briefing that the pope is asking everyone to take responsibility for creating a more humane culture online by being respectful, honest and contributing to the growth and wellbeing of individuals and society through social networks.
Very often in new media "the more provocative I am, the more strident, the more extreme I am in my views, the more attention I get," he said. But, he said, the pope "is calling for the importance of the quiet voice of reason; we need moderation, reason and logic otherwise our debates are going nowhere."
Archbishop Claudio Celli, the council's president, said even Catholic sites and forums can be plagued by an aggressive and divisive atmosphere.
"The problem isn't so much displaying straightforward fidelity to particular dogmatic statements of the faith," he said; the problem is how to best show God's mercy and love, which is often more credibly and effectively done with actions and not just words.
"I knew my mother and father loved me not because they showered me with solemn declarations, but because they let me experience first-hand what it means to be loved," the archbishop said.
The same needs to happen in the realm of faith, because what humanity needs more than anything is to experience first-hand God's love and mercy, he said.
In his message, the pope said, "Dialogue and debate can also flourish and grow when we converse with and take seriously people whose ideas are different from our own."
Social networks are an important place for people of faith to reach out to others "by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence," the pope said.
If evangelizing is to bear fruit, he said, people need to remember that "it is always because of the power of the word of God itself to touch hearts, prior to any of our own efforts."
The level of debate can be toned down and sensationalism avoided when people begin to put more trust in the power of God's work "than any confidence we place in human means," he said.
"We need to trust in the fact that the basic human desire to love and to be loved, and to find meaning and truth -- a desire which God himself has placed in the heart of every man and woman -- keeps our contemporaries ever open to ... the 'kindly light' of faith," Pope Benedict said.
He also reminded people to use online networks to invite others into a faith community, religious celebrations and pilgrimages: "elements which are always important in the journey of faith."
By Carol Glatz
The Pope’s Message for World Communications Day 2013 is, perhaps, best understood as the latest chapter in his on-going reflection on new media. Over the last five years, Pope Benedict has been attentive to the evolving reality of digital media and its significance for humanity and the Church. This year, his focus is on the social networks and his concern is to invite people to appreciate the potential of these networks to contribute to the promotion of human development and solidarity. He outlines some of the fundamental attitudes and commitments that will be required of those who are active in the social networks if they are to achieve this potential. Moreover, during this Year of Faith, he addresses believers who are engaged in the social networks and he asks them to consider how their presence can help to make known the Gospel message of God’s love for all people.
Pope Benedict has previously characterized the new communications technologies as ‘a gift for humanity’ (Message, 2009) and he has emphasized that they ‘are not only changing the way we communicate, but communication itself’ (Message, 2011). The technologies, however, will not automatically lead to a change for the better: ‘Just because social communications increase the possibilities of interconnection and the dissemination of ideas, it does not follow that they promote freedom or internationalize development and democracy for all. To achieve goals of this kind, they need to focus on promoting the dignity of persons and peoples, they need to be clearly inspired by charity and placed at the service of truth, of the good, and of natural and supernatural fraternity’ (Caritas in veritate, 73. 2009). He is clear that human effort and commitment is required so that the ‘exchange of information can become true communication, links ripen into friendships, and connections facilitate communion’ (Message, 2013).
Commentators frequently speak of user generated content with reference to the social networks. Pope Benedict reminds us that the very culture of the social networks is user generated. If the networks are to be spaces where good positive communications can help to promote individual and social well-being then the users, the people who make up the networks, need to be attentive to the type of content they are creating and sharing. Recent research is pointing to the increasing importance of the social networks in forming human identity (Foresight Future Identities, London, 2013); in this context it is ever more urgent that we are attentive to ensure that these environments are safe and humanly enriching. All users will avoid the sharing of words and images that are degrading of human beings, that promote hatred and intolerance, that debase the goodness and intimacy of human sexuality or that exploit the weak and vulnerable (Message, 2009).
It is self obvious that the networks can only be truly social if users avoid all forms of anti-social behaviour and expression. If networks are to realize their potential to be a forum to help people grow in understanding and appreciation of each other, then we should seek to be respectful in our modes of expression. If they are to help people to grow in knowledge and in truth, then we must commit ourselves to honesty and authenticity in our contributions. In an environment that allows people to be present anonymously, we must be attentive never to lose our sense of personal responsibility. Even though the social networks often seem to give greater attention to those who are most provocative or strident in their style of presentation, we should insist on the importance of reasoned debate, logical argumentation and gentle persuasion. Although the social networks may risk becoming ‘information cocoons’ or ‘echo chambers’ (Sunstein, 2012) where people only engage with those who share their views and opinions, the Pope reminds us that dialogue and debate can only flourish when we are willing to engage with and take seriously the ideas of those who are different from us. Social networks will be richest when they are inclusive.
The Pope takes for granted the importance of the digital environment as a reality in the lives of many people. It is not some sort of parallel or merely virtual world but an existential environment where people live and move. It is a ‘continent’ where the Church must be present and where believers, if they are to be authentic in their presence, will seek to share with others the deepest source of their joy and hope, Jesus Christ. The forum created by the social networks allows us to share the truth that the Lord has passed to His Church, to listen to others, to learn about their cares and concerns, to understand who they are and for what they are searching.
The Pope identifies some of the challenges that we must address if our presence is to be effective. We must become more fluent in the language of the social networks; a language that is born of the convergence of text, image and sound, a language that is characterized by brevity and that seeks to engage hearts and minds as well as the intellect. In this regard, the Pope reminds us to draw on our Christian heritage which is rich in signs, symbols and artistic expression. We need to remember a basic truth of communications: our witness – our actions and our patterns of behaviour – is often more eloquent than our words and proclamations in expressing who we are and what we believe. In the digital arena, the Pope suggests that our willingness to engage patiently and respectfully with the questions and doubts of those we encounter in the networks can be a powerful expression of our care and concern for them. Notwithstanding the challenges, we should always be hopeful. We remember the power of the word of God itself to touch hearts, prior to any of our own efforts (Message, 2013).
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55, 10-11).
Mons. Paul Tighe
Secretay of the Ponifical Council for Social Communications
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With Pope Benedict XVI's new presence on Twitter, people from all over the world can now post papal messages with just the push of an on-screen button.
While many have welcomed the pope's foray into the virtual world, his @Pontifex handles and "reply-able" posts have also meant that rude and crude comments have come with the mix.
Twitter is "an open communications platform," and the Vatican has readily embraced what the full-fledged exercise of freedom of speech entails, said Msgr. Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, which organized and runs the pope's eight language-based Twitter accounts.
"We knew there would be negative stuff," he told Catholic News Service Dec. 13, the day after the pope first tweeted more than 1 million "followers." The number of followers of the pope's multi-language accounts nearly doubled to more than 1.7 million just 24 hours later.
The Irish-born Msgr. Tighe said that in sifting through the feedback, "what stuck with me most was all the lovely stuff," the positive and genuine comments and queries in the midst of the ugly.
Just because there is a negative side to new media doesn't mean the church should shy away, he said.
Social media has allowed people to be "very honest and even more than honest at times" in a very public way, he said. "But you can't abandon it and leave it at that. We have to see its potential to do good" as a tool for evangelization and as a global forum for respectful dialogue and debate.
The wrong approach would be to "chase after all the negative, and then let it define who you are," he said.
Pope Benedict, instead, has called on Catholics to engage online with respect and with a genuine and earnest spirit, the monsignor said.
He said the pope has even called on priests to do the digital dive, saying, "Let's give a soul to the Internet, not just content."
Msgr. Tighe suggested priests, religious and other Catholics "jump right in and answer people's questions" that have been submitted using the @Pontifex and #Pontifex tags. Sometimes, veiled under the sarcasm or criticism, are signs of "a genuine searching," he said.
"Just seeing what's being said can help you think through how to engage with people more positively," and it can offer insight into what prejudices or misunderstandings need addressing, he said.
"The church is more than Rome and the pope," he said, so people should feel free to pitch in, lend a hand with the outreach and help "raise the level of discussion."
The pope's new Twitter accounts also are the pope's way of encouraging people to engage, he said, and take part in the new evangelization in new ways.
By Carol Glatz
(Vatican Radio) ‘Theology and Communications in Dialogue’ was the title of a symposium held at the Jesuit Santa Clara University in California recently, with the aim of deepening theological reflection on the digital communications culture.
Sponsored by the United States Catholic Bishops Conference and the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the meeting explored how online communications have radically altered our ways of forging friendships, finding out information and forming opinions on every topic – including religion.
So just how well is the Catholic Church responding to the challenge of being present in the digital world and engaging people in a deeper, more meaningful dialogue?
Mgr Paul Tighe is secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and took part in the Santa Clara symposium……
Listen to Philippa Hitchen's interview with Mgr Paul Tighe:
"As a church we believe in community, that as a church we are the people gathered by Christ as an assembly, yet how we gather and how we assemble has been changed...."
"If you want to look at new media..... despite its capacity to create dialogue and debate, it actually often serves to isolate and make people conscious of their individuality... As people will always seek relationships, then where is the positive dimension of that, where do these individuals form community and how do we do that with them?"
"This new culture has its emphasis on digital relationships- yet the idea of embodiment is so important for our Christian tradition... we are called to serve, rather than just to relate online. And we believe strongly in the sacraments to be celebrated together....."
"In our day to day work at the Council we’re discovering various initiatives taken by different churches and communities throughout the world to negotiate an effective presence of new media and to engage people and draw them into stronger forms of community..."
Sydney (CN CathNews) - Members of the Australian Catholic media, including some international representatives, gathered in Sydney from 30 April to 2 May for the Australian Catholic Media Congress, entitled 'Communicating the Word: Timeless Messages, New Media'.
The Congress featured a wide range of speakers exploring the impact of social media and offered professional development to Catholic, Christian and secular media professionals.
In his welcome, Chair of the Australian Catholic Media Council, Bishop Peter Ingham said the fundamental question is, "How do we harness the power of social media to spread the message of the Church?".
"When you look at the social media landscape, the figures indicate how pervasive this new media is—ignore this and the Church will become fossilised. We have to embrace it for the well being of the Church's people—we need to use the new media at the service of the Word."
Keynote Speaker Monsignor Paul Tighe, Secretary to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications echoed this sentiment. He said, "The digital media world is where a lot of young people are spending an increasing amount of time—if we're not there, we're not in their world and we're not real."
"The new technologies are not only changing the way we communicate, but communication itself—they provide a new way of learning and thinking, they're changing politics, commerce, the way we educate people, how we form opinions and engage in events. It's a cultural transformation and it's still going.
"We're in the business of handing on a message that is not of our own making. The truth which we long to share doesn't derive its worth from its popularity, but in its integrity so our message is heavily counter cultural.
"We have to present it as positively and attractively as we can but we can't compromise the core of that message—that it's a person (not a teaching, insight or enlightenment). It's a relationship with a person, Jesus, the Word made flesh, who reveals God's unconditional love for us.
"We can have great hope about the message we want to proclaim because as long as we have the capacity and freedom to discover who we are, we will always yearn to love and be noble, and so the message will never fail to touch minds and hearts."
Other speakers at the conference included former Young Australian of the Year and filmmaker, Khoa Do, social commentator and women's advocate Melinda Tankard Reist and Chief Executive Officer of Free TV Australia, Julie Flynn.
By Fiona Basile
Monsignor Paul Tighe, Secretary to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications heads an influential line-up of guests for the Australian Catholic Media Congress 2012, an event which is held once every three years in Sydney.
The Media Congress is organised by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and will take place from 30 April – 2 May at the Menzies Hotel.
The event carries the theme “Communicating the Word: Timeless Messages, New Media”, to focus on the way the Church and the world can engage with social media to share important messages.
Monsignor Paul Tighe was delighted to accept the invitation to present at the Congress and will present on all three days.
'Communication of the Gospel must be at heart of the ministry of a priest and I am pleased to be asked to work in the Council that has a mandate to harness the potential of the media - new and old - as a means of evangelisation,' Monsignor Paul said.
'I am equally pleased to be speaking on this vital area in the mission of the Church at the ACMC in Sydney", he said.
Workshops and presentations on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, eConferencing, eLearning technology and blogging, as well as ethics and spirituality will be featured. There will be a hands-on professional development element in concurrent sessions.
Bishop Peter Ingham, Bishops’ delegate for the Media said that the Media Congress is a once in a lifetime opportunity and that the keynote guest is extremely competent and inspiring.
“There are few events which bring together such a diverse and talented group of media professionals, and anyone with an interest in how we communicate the Gospel message in our society today would benefit from attending”, he said.
“Monsignor Paul Tighe is one of the Vatican’s most senior media advisors and has a wonderful background in communication both in Ireland and now based in Rome. It is indeed a privilege that he will be with us during this Congress”, he said.
The Congress is open for early-bird registration and all interested professionals who wish to learn more about social media and the Church are welcome.
To register for the Congress or simply to find out more visit
www.communicatingthewordACMC2012.com or phone Beth Doherty on 0407 081 256