Archbishop Eamon Martin, Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh, has released ’10 commandments’ for Catholics using the internet which include using “digital smiles”, “avoiding aggression” and accepting criticism.
The list of advice for Catholics online was posted in a blog entitled ‘The new media and the work of evangelisation’ posted on the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference website.
The first ‘commandment’ on the list is: “Be positive and joyful. Offer ‘digital smiles’ and have a sense of humour. Remember that it is the ‘joy of the Gospel’ that we are communicating, so, as Pope Francis says: no ‘funeral faces’ or ‘sourpusses.’”
Other suggestions include “strictly avoid aggression and ‘preachiness’”, “have a broad back when criticisms and insults are made,” and “be missionary, be aware that with the help of the internet, a message has the potential to reach the ends of the earth in seconds”.
The ’10 commandments’ are preceded by a lengthy post by Archbishop Martin in which he discusses “the challenges and opportunities for new media in evangelisation”.
“I am going to take it for granted that all of us here accept the necessity of people of faith to be involved in new media if we want to make the Gospel widely known in today’s world,” he wrote.
“Christians always made use of all forms of media to spread the good news – whether it be parchments and scrolls, high crosses, art, stained glass, illuminated manuscripts, the printing, television or radio. We must welcome the use of so-called ‘new media’ in this task.
“The internet has become like the nervous system of our culture, in which more and more people are expressing and exploring their identity, picking up and discarding their values and attitudes, expressing their feelings and prejudices, befriending and unfriending each other, measuring each other’s status and importance, relevance and appearance. If our young people and people are living in this gigantic network, then we, as people of faith need to be in there, dialoguing with the inhabitants of this world, with the men and women who dwell in the web.”
Archbishop Martin also referred to the upcoming World Cuommunications Day and Pope Francis’s position on evangelisation.
“In his message for the 48th World Communications Day, Pope Francis speaks about ‘Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter,’” the Archbishop wrote.
“There is a temptation to see evangelisation in the new media as simply bombarding people with religious messages. Pope Francis encourages us to go beyond this. He challenges us to think about how we can effectively encounter people and witness to them in, and using, new media.”
Here are Archbishop Martin’s digital media principles in full:
1. Be positive and joyful. Offer ‘digital smiles’ and have a sense of humour. Remember that it is the ‘ joy of the Gospel’ that we are communicating, so, as Pope Francis says: no ‘funeral faces’ or ‘sourpusses’!
2. Strictly avoid aggression and ‘preachiness’ online; try not to be judgemental or polemical – goodness knows, there is enough of this online already! Instead, try Pope Francis’ approach of ‘tenderness and balm’.
3. Never bear false witness on the internet.
4. Remember ‘Ubi caritas et amor’. Fill the internet with charity and love, always giving rather than taking. Continually seek to broaden and reframe discussions and seek to include a sense of charity and solidarity with the suffering in the world.
5. Have a broad back when criticisms and insults are made – when possible, gently correct.
6. Pray in the digital world! Establish sacred spaces, opportunities for stillness, reflection amd meditation online.
7. Establish connections, relationships and build communion. Church has always been about ‘gathering’. In this, it is worth considering an ecumenical presence for the Christian churches online. The internet tends to be a place of ethical and intellectual relativism, and often of aggressive secularism. The scandal of disunity among Christians can be easily exploited and exaggerated. Therefore we must seek to share resources so that we can have a powerful Gospel witness. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people started noticing online: ‘See how these Christians love one another’.
8. Educate our young to keep themselves safe and to use the internet responsibly.
9. Witness to human dignity at all times online. Seek, as Pope Benedict once said, to ‘give a soul to the internet’. We are well aware of the pervasive prevalence of pornography on the internet which can ‘pollute the spirit’, destroy and degrade human sexuality and relationships, reduce persons to objects for gratification, draw millions into the commodification and commercialisation of sex, feed the monster that is human trafficking.
10. Be missionary, be aware that with the help of the internet, a message has the potential to reach the ends of the earth in seconds. In this regard, let us foster and call forth charisms in younger committed people who understand the power and potential of the net to bear witness.
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