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Authenticity and truth in the culture of social networks

· In Message for World Day of Social Communications the Pope points out values for the digital world ·

Engaging in  “a wise and balanced way, help(s) to foster forms of dialogue and debate which, if conducted respectfully and with concern for privacy, responsibility and truthfulness”. Social networks can “reinforce the bonds of unity between individuals and effectively promote the harmony of the human family”. The Pope wrote this in his Message for the 47th World Day of Social Communications which will be celebrated on 12 May. The text was presented this morning, Thursday, 24 January, in the Holy See Press Office by Archbishop Celli and Mons. Tighe, President and Secretary respectively of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

Benedict XVI's reflection is moved by the understanding that “the digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people”. In this environment, social networks are the “result of human interaction, but for their part they also reshape the dynamics of communication”. “A considered understanding” of this dimension, the Pontiff warns, is therefore “the prerequisite for a significant presence” of Christians in digital social networks.

To those who actively participate in these new forms of communication the Pope especially asks to not allow 'authenticity' be lost. Because, he explains, “in these spaces, it is not only ideas and information that are shared, but ultimately our very selves”. There is the need for the commitment for everyone to promote “value of dialogue, reasoned debate and logical argumentation”, hiding away from the traps of celebrity at all costs,  of  strategies of persuasion, and of noise making information.

“The challenge facing social networks”, Benedict XVI highlighted, “is how to be truly inclusive: thus they will benefit from the full participation of believers”. Believers are called to “the ability to employ the new languages is required, not just to keep up with the times, but precisely in order to enable the infinite richness of the Gospel to find forms of expression capable of reaching the minds and hearts of all”. An “attentive discernment” together with openness to dialogue and to witness is necessary in order to confirm “the importance and relevance of religion in public debate and in the life of society”.The Pope also recalled the role of social networks as “a factor in human development” in “some geographical and cultural contexts where Christians feel isolated”.

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