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Vatican: Internet is "Blessed"

Rather than condemning the Internet as Satan's playground, the Vatican's communications chief Father Federico Lombardi SJ declares that the Internet is "blessed." While many will disagree, especially with a plethora of unholy content infesting the world wide web's very veins, the Catholic Church is encouraging "communicators" to use the Internet to engage positively, to visualize the possibilities of the Internet as a force for unity. The Internet can reach out to the poor and the rich alike, spreading positive messages in a Digital Age.

It certainly makes sense that the Vatican chooses to reach out online. As Father Lombardi described in a recent speech, the Internet surpassed all other media (except television) as the principal source of information regarding national and international current events in 2008. He also referred to Microsoft's article entitled Europe Logs On: European Internet Trends of Today and Tomorrow, a document stating that Internet use will actually surpass traditional television use among European customers, reaching an average of more than 14 hours per week by June 2010.

"One of the biggest challenges facing us at present is that of interactivity, and, I would say, of 'positive interactivity,'" he said. "How ought we to tackle this challenge at all levels of the Church’s life? For me specifically, the challenge presents itself to the communications efforts of the Holy See, and our experience at Vatican Radio comes to mind. In recent years, the internet has been for us an important tool that has made it possible for us to deliver content to countless users of all kinds. Now, however, the reality of the situation that is emerging is one in which the great thing is not simply content distribution, but greater and greater interactivity."

But while the Vatican embraces the Internet, Father Lombardi also warns of its negative side, the "risks and the ambiguities that attend this stage." In his speech, he provides a short "faces of evil" list that generally accompanies online communication:  the "classical" face of falsehood, the face of pride, the face of oppression and injustice, the face of debauched sensuality, the face of escapism, and the face of division. The face of falsehood only offers deception, whereas the face of pride is defined as self-centeredness that "despises his fellows and refuses to listen to other positions." The face of oppression and injustice denies others their freedom to gather information and give expression. The face of debauched sensuality should be self-explanatory, whereas the face of escapism seems directed to online games like World of Warcraft and Second Life. Finally, the face of division seeks to demolish dialogue.

"We need to learn to recognize these faces of evil for what they are, in order to make communications able freely to serve the good, that is, to further the construction of a culture of respect, of dialogue and friendship, and to place the immense potential of contemporary communications in the service of communion in the Church and of the unity of the whole human family," he said.

Months ago, the Vatican launched a specialized YouTube channel found here, offering video feeds and news straight from the Pope. The Vatican also offers additional websites, including the official online Press Office, Vatican Television, and also Vatican Radio. There's no question that the Catholic Church has embraced the Internet and all the goodness that can become of it. "We are called to make sure that the press, the radio and television are tools and paths toward blessedness," he concluded in his speech. "Now, I shall have to work more--all of us shall have to work even harder, so that every day it will be more and more true, to say, and so that we might be able to say with greater and greater conviction: the internet is truly blessed!"

Father Lombardi's recent speech marks the Church's upcoming Communications Day taking place Sunday, May 24.