In his message for the 36th World Communication Day in 2002, Blessed Pope John Paul II laid the foundation, that has since been built upon by Pope Benedict XVI, for the role that the internet should play in ministry. Delivered before the launch of Facebook or Twitter, the following three principles from the 36th World Communication Day provide a guideline for the use of New Media in Catholic evangelization and catechesis:
Evangelization: Cast wide your nets
New media, and specifically websites, blogs, and social networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook, allow us to “cast wide our nets” like never before. Never in the history of mankind have we had a greater opportunity to evangelize to so many, so quickly. Let us “be not afraid” to lower our nets through the use of New Media and trust in the immense “catch” that God will provide.
The internet can offer magnificent opportunities for evangelization if used with competence and a clear awareness of its strengths and weaknesses. Above all, by providing information and stirring interest it makes possible an initial encounter with the Christian message…– St. John Paul II, World Communication Day 2002
Catechesis: Nourish the flock
Not only can we use New Media as a tool for evangelization, but we should also use it as a form of catechesis. Websites, blogs, and video/audio podcasts are excellent mediums for creating digital libraries that can be accessed 24/7/365. Social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, are great vehicles for directing and inviting others to drink of these reservoirs of knowledge and wisdom. So ”be not afraid” to “nourish the flock”.
At a subsequent stage, the internet can also provide the kind of follow-up which evangelization requires. Especially in an unsupportive culture, Christian living calls for continuing instruction and catechesis, and this is perhaps the area in which the internet can provide excellent help…– St. John Paul II, World Communication Day 2002
Discipleship: Fulfill, not abolish
New Media can never replace the personal relationships required for true discipleship. Although a great tool for evangelization and catechesis, the goal of the use of New Media is ultimately to bring others into a relationship with Christ through His Church. Thus, the internet and New Media should not abolish the personal relationships required for discipleship, but rather fulfill them!
But it is also true that electronically mediated relationships can never take the place of the direct human contact required for genuine evangelization. For evangelization always depends upon the personal witness of the one sent to evangelize. (cf. Romans 10: 14-15).– St. John Paul II, World Communication Day 2002 (cf. Romans 10: 14-15)