Editorial: Digital encounters

As we progress deeper into the 21st century, the Church increasingly faces the challenge of using ever-advancing technology to better support its mission of evangelization. In a statement for World Communications Day, celebrated this year on June 1, Pope Francis navigates the possibilities open to the Church through this digital realm, stressing that Catholics must use media to grow closer in unity with one another and to bring others to Christ.

“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,” the pope wrote.

But, Pope Francis said, the instantaneousness of today’s media often “exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgment, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of self-expression.”

To avoid these dangers and to achieve unity, he said, requires a desire to listen to and learn from one another — whether this means reaching across faiths or across ideological divides.

We must extend ourselves further by creating community in the digital world, and by using that community to further our mission of evangelization.

“We need to resolve our differences through forms of dialogue, which help us grow in understanding and mutual respect,” the pope wrote. “A culture of encounter demands that we be ready not only to give, but also to receive.”

So how, as Pope Francis puts it, can communication be “at the service of an authentic culture of encounter”? As members of a media organization dedicated to spreading the good news of Christ, we at Our Sunday Visitor know that it is imperative that we ask ourselves this question on a regular basis. In a world prone to divisions, how are we creating community? How are we bringing our readers to Christ by spreading the truth of the Faith in a clear, joyful way? How are we using the tools at our disposal to reach out to those who may feel far from Christ or his Church? How are we building up rather than tearing down?

This week’s In Focus (Pages 9-12) is an opportunity for us to live up to this call. After years of devastating and painful revelations of clergy sexual abuse, OSV Newsweekly is taking a moment to honor the priests who have dedicated their lives to Christ and who have lived out this call with grace and holiness. We’ve reported on the Church in crisis; now we bask in her many gifts. We share your stories of the priests who have affected your lives so that they may touch the lives of others.

But to truly encounter others, we must jump unhesitatingly into the online world. That means Church entities must master the basics: grow a digital presence; wade into the waters of social media; create and maintain a dynamic, attractive and up-to-date website. But we also must extend ourselves further by creating community in the digital world, and by using that community to further our mission of evangelization.

One of the best efforts in recent years toward this type of dialogue is www.strangenotions.com, an effort started by media strategist Brandon Vogt and now operated by Word on Fire ministries. As a Web portal that brings together Catholics and atheists in an environment built around reason, faith and dialogue, Strange Notions exists as a place for encounter. We do ourselves a disservice not to emulate this type of effort.

As the digital landscape only expands, the Church’s challenges only grow broader. But if we continue to challenge ourselves to creatively use media to engage the world, we will better enable the world to encounter Christ.

Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor