Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pope to Priests: Go Out Into the Whole... 'Net

Keeping with longtime custom for this feast of the Archangels, this morning the Vatican announced the theme of next year's observance of World Communications Day: "The priest and pastoral ministry in a digital world: new media at the service of the Word."

Chosen by Pope Benedict as a nod to the ongoing Year for Priests, the thread will be the focus of the pontiff's annual message for the Day, which is released on the 24 January feast of St Francis de Sales, the patron of writers and journalists.

Instituted by Pope Paul VI in 1967, the WCD is celebrated each year on the Seventh Sunday of Easter, which is now observed as Ascension Day in most of the global church.

Explaining the rationale behind the choice, a release from the Pontifical Council for Social Communications said that the coming papal message "seeks to invite priests, in a particular way... to consider new media as a great resource for their ministry of service to the Word, and to encourage them to address the challenges born from the new digital culture."

The statement went on to praise the new technologies for offering the possibility of "forms of collaboration and a growth of communion impossible in the past."

Coupled with the announcement of a Vatican partnership with Google, the Pope's 2009 WCD message focused on the utilization of new media as a builder of "respect, dialogue and friendship."

Of course, the choice of topic could provide yet another opportunity for Papa Ratzi to reinforce the imperative of his message with the visual (yet unknown) of himself at a keyboard. If experience is any indicator, however, he won't... and the moment's greatest potential will yet again be lost.