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
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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. 

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