NewsMediaTowards Full Presence, A Pastoral Reflection on Engagement with Social Media

Towards Full Presence, A Pastoral Reflection on Engagement with Social Media

Towards Full Presence, A Pastoral Reflection on Engagement with Social Media, is the latest document released by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, offering a pastoral reflection on how we interact and engage within the digital world. 

The document takes on the parable of the Good Samaritan, as it addresses people from all walks of life and offers inspiration for those who inhabit social media. It comes in response to the many questions the Dicastery gets on how to navigate the digital world, thus it focuses on how we conduct ourselves within the digital environment and on how we can build relationships and do good in the virtual world. “The document does not start from technology; it is not a directoire, nor a kind of practical-functional guideline. It is a theological, and pastoral reflection; one that comes from looking at the Gospel to provoke a personal and collective examination of conscience. Its focus is on man, not machine. The network in its truest and deepest sense, not the connection. The heart, not the algorithm”, affirms Dr. Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, at the press conference held at the Holy See Press Office on May 30th. 

Nowadays, the question is no longer whether to engage with the digital world, but how. “Many Christians ask for inspiration and guidelines to use social media, it has become part of our lives and a way to live our faith”, says Sister Nathalie Becquart, XMCJ, undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. She explained how young people have been asking for a document to help them discern how to move within the digital world, highlighting that it’s something that came up often at the continental stage of the synodal process. “This document invites Christians to weave nets of community, to walk together a path that requires listening, dialogue, and a sense of community. The Church must reflect on its role as a community builder and its responsibility in creating relationships that can foster communion in support of the Mission. Towards Full Presence is a call to be Church in the digital world”, Sr. Nathalie concludes. 

Towards Full Presence hopes to ignite reflection and to give answers inspired by faith. Even if it is not a document with guidelines, the idea is that anyone from any corner of the world can share what they’ve learned about inhabiting the digital world. Thanks to its web platform, people can share documents, texts, initiatives, and events on a predisposed world map, and they can also participate in “digital coffees”, global webinars and smaller meet-ups that will be hosted online to discuss how to continue the Towards Full Presence journey.  

The website and the logo were created in collaboration with this year’s class of “Faith Communication in the Digital World”, a program launched by the Dicastery to engage young communicators from around the world in a synodal journey of mutual listening to share how to communicate the faith in the digital continent. One of the participants, journalist and SIGNIS Youth member Orlando Sánchez, when asked about his involvement in the project, shares that “being part of the construction of the website was a rigorous working process guided by the methodology of Design Thinking. During this step, we also established guidelines for its dissemination through digital media and marketing strategies”. 

“With this document, we are making a first move to get people thinking and reflecting on the way we live in this new society. It’s time to stop thinking of our digital life as being any different from our three-dimensional one”says Father Lucio Adrian Ruiz, Secretary of the Dicastery for Communication. “The issue is no longer just about ‘using’ communication tools, but about living in a highly digitized culture that has profound impacts on the notions of time and space, self-perception, perception of others and the world, and the way we communicate, learn, gather information, and interact with others”, he concludes. 

As communication continues to evolve and its new tools and languages become more embedded into our daily lives, we must remember that we are called to use this power to promote tolerance, dialogue, and strong relationships. The online world has completely changed the way we live and there is no turning back. Even if it comes with consequences, which we must prepare ourselves to overcome, it has allowed us to reduce distances, build connections, and be seen. This latest statement is particularly relevant for people coming from marginalized groups, who’ve spent their lives feeling invisible but now have the opportunity to tell their stories. As Sr. Veronica Donatello, S.F.A., Head of the National Service for the Pastoral Care of people with disabilities, Italian Episcopal Conference, said, “for people with disabilities, social media is a window to the world, a possibility to be part of it. But the likes are not enough, we must educate people on how to build relationships and put ourselves in the shoes of the people we meet”.

In our increasingly interconnected world, where social media has seamlessly integrated into our lives, the document “Towards Full Presence” emerges as a beacon of guidance. It serves as a constant reminder for us to utilize this influential tool responsibly, demonstrating compassion and a commitment to fostering an inclusive and empathetic digital environment. By wholeheartedly embracing the profound teachings of this document and translating them into action within our online interactions, we have the power to shape a society that is more understanding and inclusive for all.


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