Publicador de contenidos

Back to 2014_06_03TEO_Encontrarse en las calles digitales

Ramiro Pellitero, Professor of Theology

Meeting on the digital streets

Tue, 03 Jun 2014 09:56:00 +0000 Published in and Religion Confidential

"It is not enough to pass through the digital 'streets', i.e. simply to be connected: it is necessary that the connection be accompanied by a real meeting"

In his message for the workshop World Communications Day (1-VI-2014), Pope Francis proposes the topic of Communication at the service of an authentic culture of meeting.

Willing to listen and learn

Today," he begins, "we live in a world that is becoming smaller and smaller, so it seems that it should be easier to be closer to one another," especially because of the development of transportation and new technologies. However, we contemplate "the scandalous gap between the luxury of the richest and the misery of the poorest"; and the worst thing is that we have become accustomed to it, in addition to numerous forms of exclusion and conflicts where economic, political, ideological and, unfortunately, also religious factors are mixed.

In this world, "the media can help us to feel closer to one another, to perceive a renewed sense of the unity of the human family, which can lead us to solidarity and a serious commitment to a more dignified life for all. In other words, we can get to know one another and overcome the walls that divide us, to the extent that we are willing to listen to and learn from one another.

Francis insists on the need to be open to others "The culture of meeting requires us to be ready not only to give, but also to receive from others. The media can help us in this task, especially today, when the networks of human communication have reached unprecedented levels of development ". And he points out the possibilities that the Internet offers in this regard.

A conquest more human than technological

Taking a second step, he also recognizes the problematic aspects of this communication: the speed and great variety of the opinions and information we receive can influence us to isolate ourselves from others instead of communicating, not to mention those who are excluded because they do not have access to these media. This shows that communication is, at final, "more a human than a technological conquest".

Pope Francis asks, then, "what is it that can help us financial aid grow in humanity and mutual understanding in the digital world?" And he proposes recovering a certain sense of slowness and calm, the time and ability to be silent in order to listen, the patience to understand those who are different from us, to appreciate the human experience as it is appreciated from other cultures and traditions. At the same time, this can help us to better appreciate "the great values inspired by Christianity, for example, the vision of man as a person, marriage and the family, the distinction between the religious sphere and the political sphere, the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, among others".

Towards a culture of meeting

Other questions arise from this: "How can communication be put at the service of an authentic culture of meeting?" And for us Christians, "what does it mean to meet a person according to the Gospel? Is it possible, despite our limits and sins, to be truly close to one another?"

A scribe-a communicator-one day asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" (Lk 10:29), a question that Francis translates for us: "How is 'proximity' manifested in the use of the media and in the new environment created by digital technology? And he himself answers by turning to another Gospel passage, the parable of the Good Samaritan. That man not only approaches, but becomes position of the man who was lying half-dead on the side of the road.

Jesus," the Pope observes, "reverses the perspective: it is not a matter of recognizing the other as my fellow human being, but of being able to make myself similar to the other. And he deduces: "To communicate means, therefore, to become aware that we are human, children of God". And he says that he likes to define this power of communication as "proximity"; that is, the power to perceive as children of God those whom we address through digital channels or those who contact and address us through these channels, and also the power to behave with them truly as children of God.

On the other hand, he warns, when communication induces consumption or manipulation of people, we are faced with the opposite: a violent aggression like the one that man had suffered.

So that what happened to the priest and the Levite - conditioned by the customs of their time - does not happen to us today, Francis points out, "it is not enough to pass through the digital 'streets', that is, simply to be connected: it is necessary that the connection be accompanied by a true meeting".

He goes on to point out that no one can live closed in on themselves, because we all need love and tenderness, and this too must be expressed in the digital world. "The digital network can be a place rich in humanity: not a network of wires, but of human persons."

A challenge that requires sensitivity

And then comes the proposal: "The neutrality of the media is apparent: only those who communicate by putting themselves at stake can represent a point of reference letter. Personal commitment-which is not the enemy of prudence-is the very root of a communicator's reliability. It is precisely for this reason that Christian witness, thanks to network, can reach the existential peripheries".

Through the "digital streets" - often populated by wounded people - we can help to show the face of God, to participate in the missionary vocation of the whole Church, to bring warmth and closeness to others. Of course, this requires, in the words of Benedict XVI, "the availability to respond patiently and respectfully to their questions and doubts on the path of the search for truth and the meaning of human existence" (Message for the XLVII workshop World Communications Day, 2013).

This is what Jesus did with the disciples of Emmaus. Jesus did not remain, I might add, with his arms folded in the face of the discouragement of those people; he did not ignore their needs, much less was he deterred by the possibility that they would not listen to him or by other inconveniences. The power of his resurrection was able to overcome the difficulties and, always respecting their freedom, he was able to strengthen them so that they would become witnesses to the ends of the earth.

We are - Francis concludes - facing a challenge that requires "depth, attention to life, spiritual sensitivity"; for "dialogue means being convinced that the other has something good to say, accepting his point of view, his proposals". At the same time, "dialogue does not mean renouncing one's own ideas and traditions, but renouncing the claim that they are unique and absolute".

For this reason, the Pope invites us not to be afraid to become "citizens of the digital world", well aware that this requires "renewed energy and a new imagination to transmit to others the beauty of God".