Catholic Christians lacking proper guidance from Pope Benedict XVI whether they should be using social networks or not can take a deep breath. The Pope official blessed the used of Internet communication tools, especially social networks, but warned about risks.
"In the search for sharing, for 'friends', there is the challenge to be authentic and faithful, and not give in to the illusion of constructing an artificial public profile for oneself," he stated. He reminded Christians not to forget the interaction with others in the real world: "It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives."
In his statement of Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Agehe invited his community twice to actively participate in digital communication. "I would like then to invite Christians, confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, to join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible." If these words are not compelling enough, he noted that the Vatican is using the new tools as well: "I invite young people above all to make good use of their presence in the digital world. I repeat my invitation to them for the next World Youth Day in Madrid, where the new technologies are contributing greatly to the preparations."
Realistically, the words are a bit behind times as religions around the globe discovered the value of social network tools several years ago and are already engaged in virtual communities on networks such as Facebook. However, there is a certain sense of change, especially if we remember that Pope Benedict XIV comes from the depths of a very conservative and catholic area of Bavaria in Germany. Those who remember Pope Benedict as Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger preaching in Munich's cathedral may not have expected an apostolic approval of social networks from the Vatican.