Pope Francis, in Social-Media Message, Calls Internet a ‘Gift From God’

The pope takes a stand for Internet optimism, in a time when it is fraught.

This selfie, a gift.
National Journal
Brian Resnick
See more stories about...
Brian Resnick
Jan. 23, 2014, 4:03 a.m.

The In­ter­net, in par­tic­u­lar, of­fers im­mense pos­sib­il­it­ies for en­counter and solid­ar­ity. This is something truly good, a gift from God. — Pope Fran­cis

No, your holi­ness, quotes like these are the gift. 

In this pap­al state­ment re­leased Thursday, the pope throws his con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence be­hind the idea that so­cial me­dia, and the oth­er tools of the In­ter­net, can be one of the means to unite the world and per­haps rec­ti­fy the gap between the rich and poor — an emer­ging theme of his papacy. “We should not over­look the fact that those who for whatever reas­on lack ac­cess to so­cial me­dia run the risk of be­ing left be­hind,” he said.

It’s a re­fresh­ing mes­sage of In­ter­net op­tim­ism dur­ing a time of mass cy­ber­crime (i.e., the Tar­get breach) and gov­ern­ment eaves­drop­ping. De­pend­ing on the news, the In­ter­net can either seem to be a great demo­crat­iz­ing force in the world or something creepi­er. But the pope would like to fo­cus on what’s really the simplest idea driv­ing the Web: hu­man com­mu­nic­a­tion. And, in his view, the bet­ter hu­mans can com­mu­nic­ate with each oth­er, the bet­ter off the world will be.

“The di­git­al world can be an en­vir­on­ment rich in hu­man­ity; a net­work not of wires but of people,” he stated. Al­though he did say the Web had a down­side, in that it can some­times isol­ate us from those who are phys­ic­ally close. But here’s his hope: 

Our world suf­fers from many forms of ex­clu­sion, mar­gin­al­iz­a­tion, and poverty, to say noth­ing of con­flicts born of a com­bin­a­tion of eco­nom­ic, polit­ic­al, ideo­lo­gic­al, and, sadly, even re­li­gious motives. In a world like this, me­dia can help us to feel closer to one an­oth­er, cre­at­ing a sense of the unity of the hu­man fam­ily, which can in turn in­spire solid­ar­ity and ser­i­ous ef­forts to en­sure a more dig­ni­fied life for all.

In writ­ing this art­icle, I’ve some­what proved his point. By wit­tingly propagat­ing a pos­it­ive mes­sage — via the In­ter­net. 

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4662) }}

What We're Following See More »
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
3 days ago

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
3 days ago

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
3 days ago

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
3 days ago

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Carly Fiorina Will Not Be Allowed to Debate on Saturday
2 days ago

ABC News has announced the criteria for Saturday’s Republican debate, and that means Carly Fiorina won’t be a part of it. The network is demanding candidates have “a top-three finish in Iowa, a top-six standing in an average of recent New Hampshire polls or a top-six placement in national polls in order for candidates to qualify.” And there will be no “happy hour” undercard debate this time. “So that means no Fiorina vs. Jim Gilmore showdown earlier in the evening for the most ardent of campaign 2016 junkies.