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Vatican supports Catholic research to improve families and marriages
Posted on 05/31/2023 18:45 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Rome Newsroom, May 31, 2023 / 10:45 am (CNA).
Pope Francis has backed a project aimed at enhancing interdisciplinary research at Catholic universities in the sphere of family, marriage, and childbearing.
“We cannot be indifferent to the future of the family as a community of life and love, a unique and indissoluble covenant between a man and a woman, a place where generations meet, a source of hope for society,” the pope said in a message of support released Tuesday.
The project, called the Family Global Compact, was presented May 30 by members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS) and the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.
In a written message read at the presentation, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the family dicastery, said: “The Family Global Compact entrusts Catholic universities with the task of developing more in-depth theological, philosophical, legal, sociological, and economic analyses of marriage and the family to sustain it and place it at the heart of systems of thought and contemporary action.”
The compact includes a 50-page document outlining specific challenges faced by families today, followed by suggested solutions and actions to take. Each challenge also includes guidelines for university research on that topic.
The document notes the challenges caused by low birth rates in many areas of the world and how the widespread practice and legalization of contraception, abortion, and sterilization “have transformed the meaning of procreation: from a natural inclination and gift of God to a project and result of a procreative will that tends to dominate life.”
The Vatican document encourages working to create “favorable conditions for getting married and having children at a young age” and to improve access to Church-approved forms of medical care, such as Naprotechnology, for those struggling with infertility.
The document also discusses the promotion of marriage among young adults, childbearing and adoption, intergenerational dependence, domestic violence, education to faith and the common good, employment, and poverty, among other subjects.
“This project,” the document says, “also challenges all the social actors to whom the Family Global Compact will be able to offer arguments and reflections based on rigorous empirical evidence, investigated and interpreted within an explicit anthropological perspective, relational and personalistic in nature, firmly inscribed in the social doctrine of the Church.”
The Vatican representatives emphasized May 30 that the project is based on the concrete realities of families today.
The president of PASS, Sister Helen Alford, OP, said: “We see that, despite the sense of a crisis in the family, or even of the ‘death’ of the family, it remains a central goal and value in people’s lives.”
“We cannot resign ourselves,” Pope Francis said in his message, “to the decline of the family in the name of uncertainty, individualism, and consumerism, which envision a future of individuals who think only of themselves.”
“The family, it should be recalled, has a positive effect on everyone, since it is a generator of common good,” he continued. “Healthy family relationships represent a unique source of enrichment, not only for spouses and children but for the entire ecclesial and civil community.”
Gabriella Gambino, an undersecretary of the family and life dicastery, pointed to four steps, or goals, of the Family Global Compact, as explained by Pope Francis.
The first is to initiate “a process of dialogue and greater collaboration among university study and research centers dealing with family issues, in order to make their activities more productive, particularly by creating or reviving networks of university institutes inspired by the social doctrine of the Church,” the pope said.
The second and third goals, he added, are to create “greater synergy of content and goals between Christian communities and Catholic universities” and to promote “the culture of family and life in society, so that helpful public policy resolutions and objectives can emerge.”
And finally, Francis said, the compact hopes to harmonize and advance proposals resulting from the research “so that service to the family can be enhanced and sustained in spiritual, pastoral, cultural, legal, political, economic, and social terms.”
Pierpaolo Donati, a sociologist and member of PASS, said in the past “once upon a time if you will,” young people were educated in a healthy family life by the family, but now, this has largely been lost.
“The core of the problem is a relationship culture that is lacking,” he said.
“Studies have revealed a crisis in family relationships,” Pope Francis said, “fueled by both contingent and structural problems, which, in the absence of adequate means of support from society, make it more difficult to create a serene family life.”
“This is one reason why many young people are choosing unstable and informal types of emotional relationships over marriage,” he explained. “At the same time, surveys make it clear that the family continues to be the primary source of social life and point to the existence of good practices that deserve to be shared and promoted globally.”
“Families themselves can and should be witnesses and leaders in this process.”
Feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary
Posted on 05/31/2023 16:00 PM (CNA - Saint of the Day)
Feast date: May 31
Assuming that the Annunciation and the Incarnation took place around the time of the vernal equinox, Mary left Nazareth at the end of March and went over the mountains to Hebron, south of Jerusalem, to wait upon her cousin Elizabeth. Because Mary's presence, and even more the presence of the Divine Child in her womb, according to the will of God, was to be the source of very great graces to the Blessed John, Christ's Forerunner. (Lk1:39-57).
Feeling the presence of his Divine Saviour, John, upon the arrival of Mary, leaped for joy in the womb of his mother; at that moment he was cleansed from original sin and filled with the grace of God. Our Lady now, for the first time, exercised the office which belonged to the Mother of God made man: that He might, by her mediation, sanctify and glorify us. St. Joseph probably accompanied Mary, returned to Nazareth, and when, after three months, he came again to Hebron to take his wife home, the apparition of the angel, mentioned in Mt 1:19-25, may have taken place to end the tormenting doubts of Joseph regarding Mary's maternity.
The earliest evidence of the existence of the feast is its adoption by the Franciscan Chapter in 1263, upon the advice of St. Bonaventure. The list of feasts in the "Statuta Synodalia eccl. Cenomanensis", according to which this feast was kept July 2 at Le Mans in 1247, may not be genuine. With the Franciscan Breviary this feast spread to many churches, but was celebrated at various dates-at Prague and Ratisbon, April 28, in Paris June 27, and at Reims and Geneva, on July 8. It was extended to the entire Church by Urban VI on April 6, 1389 (Decree published by Boniface IX, 9 Nov., 1389), with the hope that Christ and His Mother would visit the Church and put an end to the Great Schism which rent the seamless garment of Christ.
The feast, with a vigil and an octave, was assigned to July 2, the day after the octave of St. John, about the time when Mary returned to Nazareth. The Office was drawn up by an Englishman, Adam Cardinal Easton, Benedictine monk and Bishop of Lincoln. Dreves has published this rhythmical office with nine other offices for the same feast, found in the Breviaries of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
Since, during the Schism, many bishops of the opposing obedience would not adopt the new feast, it was confirmed by the Council of Basle, in 1441. Pius V abolished the rhythmical office, the vigil, and the octave. The present office was compiled by order of Clement VIII by the Minorite Ruiz. Pius IX, on May 13, 1850, raised the feast to the rank of a double of the second class.
Many religious orders -- the Carmelites, Dominicans, Cistercians, Mercedarians, Servites, and others -- as well as Siena, Pisa, Loreto, Vercelli, Cologne, and other dioceses have retained the octave. In Bohemia the feast is kept on the first Sunday of July as a double of the first class with an octave.
Pope Francis praises Matteo Ricci for proclaiming the Gospel in China
Posted on 05/31/2023 13:30 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, May 31, 2023 / 05:30 am (CNA).
Pope Francis dedicated his entire general audience on Wednesday to sharing the life of Venerable Matteo Ricci, a 16th-century Jesuit missionary in China.
The pope, who has mentioned China at every Wednesday general audience in the past three weeks, praised Ricci’s “missionary spirit” in witnessing to the Gospel in the heart of the Imperial City of Beijing.
“Matteo Ricci died in Beijing in 1610 at the age of 57, a man who gave his entire life for the mission,” Francis said in St. Peter’s Square on May 31.
“His love for the Chinese people is a model, but what represents a current path is his consistency of life, the witness of his life as a Christian.”
Ricci is known for introducing Christianity to China’s imperial Ming Dynasty. By studying the language and adopting the local clothes and customs, the Jesuit priest gained access to the interior parts of the country that had been closed to outsiders.
“He always followed the path of dialogue and friendship with all the people he met, and this opened many doors for him to proclaim the Christian faith,” the pope said.
“After Francis Xavier’s attempt, another 25 Jesuits had tried in vain to enter China. But Ricci and one of his confrères prepared themselves very well, carefully studying the Chinese language and customs,” he said.
After first arriving in Macao in 1582, Ricci persevered in China for 18 years before he was able to enter Beijing’s Imperial City.
Pope Francis described how Ricci engaged in dialogue with Chinese scholars, sharing mathematical and astronomical knowledge that “contributed to a fruitful encounter between the culture and science of the West and the East.”
“However, Ricci’s fame as a man of science must not obscure the deepest motivation of all his efforts: that is, the proclamation of the Gospel,” the pope said.
“With the scientific dialogue, with the scientists, he went forward, but he gave testimony of his own faith, of the Gospel. The credibility obtained through scientific dialogue gave him the authority to propose the truth of Christian faith and morality, of which he spoke in depth in his principle Chinese works, such as ‘The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven.’”
Once Ricci entered Beijing in January 1601, he never left. He is buried in Beijing’s Zhalan Cemetery, the first foreigner to be buried on Chinese soil during the Ming dynasty.
“In the last days of his life, to those who were closest to him and asked him how he felt, Matteo Ricci ‘responded that he was thinking at that moment if the joy he felt inside was greater than the idea that he was close to the end of his journey to go and taste God, or the sadness that could cause him to leave the companions of the whole mission that he loved greatly, and the service he could still do to God Our Lord in this mission,’” the pope said.
Pope Francis underlined that it was prayer that nourished Ricci’s missionary life in which he helped “lead many of his disciples and Chinese friends to accept the Catholic faith.”
He said that missionaries can learn from how Ricci testified with his own life to what he proclaimed. Francis said: “This is the consistency of evangelizers. … I can say the ‘Creed’ by heart, I can say all the things we believe, but if your life is not consistent with what you profess, it’s useless."
“What attracts people is the testimony of coherence; we Christians are called to live what we say, and not pretend to live as Christians but live as worldly.”
Pope Francis advanced the sainthood cause for Ricci last December on the pope’s 86th birthday. In the decree promulgated on Dec. 17, the pope declared that Ricci lived a life of heroic virtue, making him “venerable.”
Last week, at the end of his Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis asked Catholics to pray that the Gospel can be fully and freely shared in China.
“I invite everyone to lift up prayers to God that the good news of the crucified and risen Christ can be announced in its fullness, beauty, and freedom, bearing fruit for the good of the Catholic Church and all of Chinese society,” he said.
Pope Francis meets with young cancer patients: ‘Jesus is always close to you’
Posted on 05/30/2023 19:30 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Rome Newsroom, May 30, 2023 / 11:30 am (CNA).
Pope Francis welcomed pediatric cancer patients from Poland to the Vatican on Monday, telling them “Jesus is always close to you.”
Children being treated at the Wrocław Oncology Clinic and their families prayed a Hail Mary together with the pope, who greeted each child individually and gave them rosaries.
“Dear children, Jesus is always by our side to give us hope. Always, even in the moments of sickness, even in the most painful moments, even in the most difficult moments. The Lord is there,” Pope Francis said.
“God loves you, dear children. You are loved by him: Do you want to be apostles of God’s love in the Church and in the world? Jesus needs you for this witness. He entrusts his plans to you and he asks: Do you want to be my apostles of God’s love? Answer ‘yes’ to him with enthusiasm and bring the joy of God’s love to others.”
“If someone finds himself alone and feels abandoned, let us not forget that Our Lady is always close to us, especially when the burden of illness, with all its problems, makes itself felt: She is there close by, just as she was next to her Son, Jesus, when everyone had abandoned him. Mary is always there, next to us, with her maternal tenderness. Let us think often of Our Lady, reciting a Hail Mary … I bless you from my heart.”
Vatican launches compact for families with pope's support
Posted on 05/30/2023 08:30 AM (USCCB News)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Asserting that "it is in the family that many of God's dreams for the human community are realized," Pope Francis asked Catholic universities and Catholic couples around the world to support the "Family Global Compact."
"We cannot resign ourselves to the decline of the family in the name of uncertainty, individualism and consumerism, which envision a future of individuals who think only of themselves," the pope wrote in a letter released May 30 with the launch of the compact by the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
"We cannot be indifferent to the future of the family as a community of life and love, a unique and indissoluble covenant between a man and a woman, a place where generations meet, a source of hope for society," the pope continued.
Pastoral, social and financial support for families is not a concern only for the church, he said, because strong families have "a positive effect on everyone" and are a key factor in promoting the common good.
"Healthy family relationships represent a unique source of enrichment, not only for spouses and children but for the entire ecclesial and civil community," the pope wrote.
The dicastery and the academy of social sciences began working on the global compact in 2021, seeking ways to promote cooperation between those engaged in the pastoral care of families and Catholic university programs and centers specialized in research about family life, as well as to form a network among the universities.
The compact says by sharing research into the realities families are living today "helpful public policy resolutions and objectives can emerge."
The goal of the compact, according to its mission statement, is to enhance and sustain service to families "in spiritual, pastoral, cultural, legal, political, economic and social terms."
Gabriella Gambino, undersecretary of the dicastery, said the university programs already onboard include not only those dedicated to studying the family, but also a couple women's studies programs, given the reality that family life, heading single-parent families, dealing with the impact of poverty, trying to find a work-life balance and raising children all are issues that currently impact women more than men.
The compact wants to focus on the importance of family relationships, Gambino said, and that includes promoting research on women's responsibilities and relationships with spouses, partners, children, relatives and the wider community "so that these relationships will be considered in the public arena" when new family policies or services are being discussed.
"This is our concern: A woman is not just an individual when she cares for her family, and this must be considered in the marketplace, in society, in the kinds of services offered to women and at work," Gambino said. "For example, one must recognize the ties a woman has with her children when one is trying to harmonize home and work. These ties, these bonds are important, they are fundamental in people's lives."
Another thing she said she hoped would come out of the compact is a call "for the education of men in the authentic sharing" of responsibility for careers and the home, including childcare, "because otherwise the task of harmonizing the two falls almost always on the woman."
Dominican Sister Helen Alford, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, said the work of the academicians showed both "light and shadows" in how families around the world are doing. But "it was clear in the discussions during the plenary last year that the family remains a very resilient social structure, capable of absorbing shocks and of providing support and healing to people in many different circumstances."
"In a world that is looking for more resilience in the face of projected future crises, including those arising from climate change," she said, "investing in the family and in research into how families can face their challenges more effectively, would bring great returns for society as a whole."
The academy, she said, proposed that the Vatican launch the compact and called for the church to work to include "the promotion of family well-being" in the U.N.'s next set of sustainable development goals. Academy members also saw need for "national action plans to help families meet their basic needs and implement them by allocating a significant amount of their budget to them," and for the creation of working groups to come up with "family-friendly employment contracts, focusing on concrete actions and preparing positions on key issues that could improve relations between families and businesses."
Pope Francis Creates Ecclesiastical Province of Las Vegas and Names Most Reverend George Leo Thomas as First Metropolitan Archbishop of Las Vegas
Posted on 05/30/2023 08:30 AM (USCCB News)
WASHINGTON - Pope Francis has created the Ecclesiastical Province of Las Vegas, comprised of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Las Vegas, and the suffragan dioceses of Reno and Salt Lake City. At the same time, he named Most Reverend George Leo Thomas, as the first Metropolitan Archbishop of Las Vegas.
The establishment of the new province and the appointment of the metropolitan archbishop was publicized in Washington, D.C. on May 30, 2023, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
An ecclesiastical province is a territory consisting of at least one archdiocese (known as the “metropolitan see”) and includes several dioceses (known as “suffragan sees”). The metropolitan archbishop is the head of his archdiocese, and while he has no direct power of governance over the suffragan dioceses in his province, through canon law (Church law), he supports them in matters of faith and discipline and provides fraternal pastoral care to his brother bishops. In this newly created province, the Archdiocese of Las Vegas is the metropolitan see, and the Diocese of Reno and the Diocese of Salt Lake City are the suffragan sees.
Archbishop Thomas was appointed the third bishop of Las Vegas on February 28, 2018, and has now been named the archbishop of the newly created province. His full biography may be read here.
The Archdiocese of Las Vegas is comprised of 39,088 square miles in the State of Nevada and has a total population of 2,322,280, of which 620,000 are Catholic.
PHOTOS: Discover 8 beautiful images of the Virgin Mary in St. Peter’s Basilica
Posted on 05/29/2023 18:30 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, May 29, 2023 / 10:30 am (CNA).
To honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Vatican offers a special Marian pilgrimage within St. Peter’s Basilica each Saturday afternoon during the month of May.
The Marian itinerary brings pilgrims from Michelangelo’s marble sculpture of the Pieta to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a 12th-century painting brought into the basilica in 1578 in a solemn procession.
For those unable to travel to the Eternal City, CNA is providing the following “virtual tour” with photos by Daniel Ibañez of eight beautiful images of Our Lady in St. Peter’s Basilica for the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church.
In the basilica’s Chapel of the Choir, a large altarpiece reveals Mary, Virgin Immaculate, in the glory of heaven above angels and saints. The mosaic based on an 18th-century painting by Italian artist Pietro Bianchi depicts St. John Chrysostom, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Anthony of Padua venerating the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The chapel is located on the left side of the basilica behind an iron gate designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. St. John Chrysostom is buried beneath the altar, which also contains relics of St. Francis and St. Anthony.
When Pope Pius IX declared the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary on Dec. 8, 1854, he had a golden crown added to the mosaic of Mary. Pope Pius X later added a larger diamond crown to mark the 50th anniversary of the declaration in 1904.
The original painting by Bianchi can be found in Rome’s Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri.
Mother of the Church
The basilica contains an icon of the Virgin Mary titled “Mater Ecclesiae,” which means “Mother of the Church.”
The original image of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child was painted on a column in old St. Peter’s Basilica, built by Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. It was later transferred to the 16th-century St. Peter’s Basilica. Paul VI honored the icon with the title “Mater Ecclesiae” after the Second Vatican Council.
The icon can still be seen above one of the basilica’s side altars in the Chapel of Our Lady of the Column, which also contains the remains of St. Leo the Great (440–461).
A mosaic of the Virgin Mary overlooking St. Peter’s Square was inspired by the original Mater Ecclesiae image. The mosaic was installed after the assassination attempt against St. John Paul II in 1981.
When he blessed the mosaic, John Paul II prayed “that all those who will come to this St. Peter’s Square will lift up their gaze towards you [Mary], to direct, with feelings of filial trust, their greetings and their prayers.”
In 2018, Pope Francis added the memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church to the liturgical calendar for the Monday after Pentecost.
Mother of Pilgrims
A restored 16th-century painting of Our Lady holding her son can be found in St. Peter’s Basilica above the sarcophagus of Pope Gregory XIV.
The image is titled “Mater Peregrinorum,” or Mother of Pilgrims. The original artist is not known, but Italians also refer to the painting as the “Madonna di Scossacavalli” because it came from Rome’s Church of San Giacomo Scossacavalli, which was demolished in 1937 to create the current Via della Conciliazione leading to St. Peter’s Basilica.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help
A 12th-century painting on wood titled Our Lady of Perpetual Help, also known as Our Lady of Succor, was transferred to an altar in St. Peter’s Gregorian Chapel on Feb. 12, 1578, with a solemn procession.
The painting was the first artistic restoration completed under Pope Francis’ pontificate during the Year of Faith, according to a book published by the Knights of Columbus.
The remains of the doctor of the Church St. Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 390) are preserved in an urn beneath the Altar of Our Lady of Succor in the Gregorian Chapel, found on the right side of the basilica.
Ark of the Covenant
A colorful mosaic altarpiece of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple brightens the wall above the tomb of St. Pius X (d. 1914) in the Presentation Chapel near the left-front entrance of the basilica.
A young Mary is depicted on the steps of the Temple with her parents, Sts. Anne and Joachim, the grandparents of Jesus.
The mosaic completed by Pietro Paolo Cristofari in 1728 is based on a painting by 17th-century artist Giovanni Francesco Romaneli, the original of which can be found in Rome’s Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri.
Gate of Heaven
The central door leading to the basilica was retained from the old St. Peter’s Basilica and is known as the Filarete Door. Created by a Florentine artist in 1455, the door depicts Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the apostles Sts. Peter and Paul.
According to Father Agnello Stoia, the pastor of the parish of St. Peter’s Basilica, the 15th-century image of Mary on the door is a reminder of Mary’s title “Gate of Heaven.”
Queen Assumed into Heaven
Looking up at the soaring cupola, or dome, of St. Peter’s Basilica, one sees mosaics depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary next to Christ the Redeemer, along with St. John the Baptist and the apostles.
The mosaic of the Virgin Mary on the Great Dome, completed in 1610 by Orazio Gentileschi, is based on drawings by Italian Mannerist painter Giuseppe Cesari.
Mother of the Redeemer
Michelangelo Buonarroti carved the Pieta from a single slab of Carrara marble when he was 24 years old. The sculpture was unveiled in St. Peter's Basilica for the Jubilee of 1500.
The moving sculpture conveys the faith and emotion of the Blessed Virgin Mary as she cradles in her arms the dead body of her only son after witnessing him crucified.
The sculpture sits above a side altar near the front entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica, where Mass was sometimes offered before recent restrictions. Visitors to the basilica can only see the Pieta behind bulletproof glass after a man attacked the sculpture with a hammer in May 1972.
The Pieta was the only work of art that Michelangelo ever signed.
Vatican releases pastoral reflection on Christian engagement with social media
Posted on 05/29/2023 12:30 PM (CNA Daily News - Vatican)
Vatican City, May 29, 2023 / 04:30 am (CNA).
Attention #CatholicTwitter and keyboard warriors: The Vatican has released recommendations for how to better “love your neighbor” on social media.
The 20-page text, “Towards Full Presence: A Pastoral Reflection on Engagement with Social Media,” published on May 29, addresses the challenges Christians face in using social media.
Topics covered in the pastoral reflection include information overload, constant scrolling, not giving others one’s full attention, being an “influencer,” witnessing to Christ, “digital detox,” the need for silence, intentional listening, and building community in a fragmented world.
“One significant cognitive challenge of digital culture is the loss of our ability to think deeply and purposefully,” it warns. “We scan the surface and remain in the shallows, instead of deeply pondering realities.”
The Vatican Dicastery for Communication published the document, which was signed by its lay prefect Paolo Ruffini and its Argentine secretary Monsignor Lucio A. Ruiz, who cite many of Pope Francis’ speeches from past World Communications Days.
The text is “not meant to be precise ‘guidelines’ for pastoral ministry,” the dicastery clarified, but seeks to promote a common reflection on how to foster meaningful and caring relationships on social media.
Robbing our attention
The Vatican’s pastoral reflection posits that social media’s constant demand for people’s attention “is similar to the process through which any temptation enters into the human heart and draws our attention away from the only word that is really meaningful and life-giving, the Word of God.”
“Different websites, applications, and platforms are programmed to prey on our human desire for acknowledgment, and they are constantly fighting for people’s attention. Attention itself has become the most valuable asset and commodity,” it says.
“Instead of focusing on one issue at a time, our continuous partial attention rapidly passes from one topic to the other. In our ‘always on’ condition, we face the temptation to post instantly since we are physiologically hooked on digital stimulation, always wanting more content in endless scrolling and frustrated by any lack of updates.”
The text highlights the need for silence and for schools, families, and communities to carve out times for people to detach from digital devices.
It warns that space for “deliberate listening, attentiveness, and discernment of the truth is becoming rare.”
“Without silence and the space to think slowly, deeply, and purposefully, we risk losing not only cognitive capacities but also the depth of our interactions, both human and divine.”
Social media pitfalls
The document raises red flags about “pitfalls to avoid” with social media, such as aggressive and negative speech shared under the “cloak of pseudonymity.”
“Along the ‘digital highways’ many people are hurt by division and hatred. We cannot ignore it. We cannot be just silent passersby. In order to humanize digital environments, we must not forget those who are ‘left behind.’ We can only see what is going on if we look from the perspective of the wounded man in the parable of the Good Samaritan,” it says.
The text notes how algorithms’ content personalization can reinforce people’s own opinions without exposure to other ideas, which at times can lead to “encouraging extreme behaviors.”
It also raises concerns about how social media companies treat people as commodities whose “profiles and data are sold.” The text underlines that social media “is not free: We are paying with minutes of our attention and bytes of our data.”
The text adds: “Increasing emphasis on the distribution and trade of knowledge, data, and information has generated a paradox: In a society where information plays such an essential role, it is increasingly difficult to verify sources and the accuracy of the information that circulates digitally.”
From being an ‘influencer’ to a witness
The text highlights how “every Christian should be aware of his or her potential influence, no matter how many followers he or she has.”
“Our social media presence usually focuses on spreading information. Along these lines, presenting ideas, teachings, thoughts, spiritual reflections, and the like on social media needs to be faithful to the Christian tradition,” it says.
It recommends that Christians should take care to be “reflective not reactive on social media” to ensure that the way one treats others online is in itself a witness.
“We should all be careful not to fall into the digital traps hidden in content that is intentionally designed to sow conflict among users by causing outrage or emotional reactions,” it says. “We must be mindful of posting and sharing content that can cause misunderstanding, exacerbate division, incite conflict, and deepen prejudices.”
One question the text encourages Christians to reflect on is whether their social media posts are pursuing “followers” for themselves or for Christ.
“What does it mean to be a witness? The Greek word for witness is ‘martyr,’ and it is safe to say that some of the most powerful ‘Christian influencers’ have been martyrs,” it says.
It urges people to remember that “there were no ‘likes’ at all and almost no ‘followers’ at the moment of the biggest manifestation of the glory of God! Every human measurement of ‘success’ is relativized by the logic of the Gospel.”
“While martyrdom is the ultimate sign of Christian witness, every Christian is called to sacrifice himself or herself: Christian living is a vocation that consumes our very existence by offering ourselves, soul and body, to become a space for the communication of God’s love, a sign pointing toward the Son of God.”
“It is in this sense that we better understand the words of the great John the Baptist, the first witness of Christ: ‘He must increase; I must decrease’ (Jn 3:30). Like the Forerunner, who urged his disciples to follow Christ, we too are not pursuing ‘followers’ for ourselves, but for Christ. We can spread the Gospel only by forging a communion that unites us in Christ. We do this by following Jesus’ example of interacting with others.”
Promote Christian values, not divisions, on social media, Vatican says
Posted on 05/29/2023 08:30 AM (USCCB News)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics should make an "examination of conscience" about how they use social media, how they allow it to influence them and about the opportunities it provides them to share the Gospel, build community and care for others, said the Vatican Dicastery for Communication.
"Unfortunately, the tendency to get carried away in heated and sometimes disrespectful discussions is common with online exchanges," said the dicastery's document, "Toward Full Presence. A Pastoral Reflection on Engagement with Social Media."
"The problem of polemical and superficial, and thus divisive, communication is particularly worrying when it comes from church leadership: bishops, pastors and prominent lay leaders," the document said. "These not only cause division in the community but also give permission and legitimacy for others likewise to promote similar type of communication."
Signed by Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the dicastery, and Msgr. Lucio A. Ruiz, secretary of the office, the document was released at a news conference May 29.
When faced with erroneous or divisive content on social media, the document said, "often the best course of action is not to react, or to react with silence so as not to dignify this false dynamic."
Asked if there was not something more active the dicastery could do, for example, with a bishop acting badly on social media, Ruffini responded that it is not the competency of his office to discipline anyone, but in general on social media it is better not to share or comment on offensive content since it only raises its profile.
Xavière Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, a member of the dicastery, said everyone in the church needs to be educated about social media and learn to discern "when to speak and when not to speak."
While the document argued for the need for Catholics to sometimes take a break from social media to pray, reflect and spend time with others in person, it recognized social media as a vehicle for sharing Gospel values and as daily part of life for millions of people around the world, including many people in developing nations whose only digital access is to social media.
But it also called on Catholics to be fully informed about its pitfalls and recognize that companies claim their platforms were designed "to bring the world closer together, to give everyone the power to create and share ideas, or to give everyone a voice," when, in fact, they are businesses that make money by using an individual's posts to target advertising to them and by selling their profiles and data.
The document quoted an adage that says, "'If you are not paying for it, you are the product.' In other words, it is not free: we are paying with minutes of our attention and bytes of our data."
People also must be aware, it said, that the history of who they follow, what they look at and what they search for feed into algorithms that increasingly narrow the posts, search results and advertising they receive.
"The consequence of this increasingly sophisticated personalization of results is a forced exposure to partial information, which corroborates our own ideas, reinforces our beliefs, and thus leads us into an isolation of 'filter bubbles,'" the document said.
The dicastery called on Catholics to burst those bubbles by purposefully expanding their sources of information and by trying to understand people with whom they have differences.
The growing sophistication of artificial intelligence, fake news and "deep fake" images and videos also require education and a critical look at what people find online, the document said.
Asked, for example, about the AI-generated photo of Pope Francis in a puffy white jacket and jeweled crucifix that went viral in March, Msgr. Ruiz told reporters that the dicastery is studying ways to give people "the resources to know when they are seeing a real photo, real video or real audio of the Holy Father and not something else."
In calling Catholics to make an "examination of conscience" about their use of social media, the document said that self-examination should start with how it impacts "three vital relationships: with God, our neighbor and the environment around us."
With the document, the dicastery launched a website -- fullypresent.website -- where people can download the document, find a study guide to it and join a "community of faith communicators" to reflect and share best practices.
We Have Some Decisions To Make – A Pentecost Sermon On Acts 2:1-21 And John 20:19-23
Posted on 05/28/2023 16:42 PM (Interrupting the Silence)
Read More We Have Some Decisions To Make – A Pentecost Sermon On Acts 2:1-21 And John 20:19-23