A Papal Visit in the Digital Age

When Pope John Paul II kissed the ground at Gatwick airport on Friday 28th May 1982 it was a very different country that he greeted compared with the one that Pope Benedict has arrived in this week.

In 1982 your music was on a vinyl record, mobile phones were still three years away, VHS was fighting Betamax for home video superiority, your home computer was the newly launched Commodore 64 and the world wide web hadn’t even been invented.

In 2010 we find ourselves in the midst of a Papal Visit that is truly a part of the digital age with all its associated trappings.  For months now www.thepapalvisit.org.uk has been keeping the faithful up-to-date with the latest information on arrangements for visit. Those who are unable to make it to the events will be able to watch them streamed lived over the internet. For those on Twitter, an internet based short message service, @thepapalvisit has been tweeting out information and facts throughout the day and night.  And those on the now- ubiquitous Facebook have been able to both ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on  the official Papal Visit group page.

But does any of this matter? The reality is that communication has changed dramatically over  the last 28 years and the Church has a duty to be ‘Salt and Light’ in the new media landscape.

This year on the 44th World Communications Day Pope Benedict gave the following message ” God’s loving care for all people in Christ must be expressed in the digital world not simply as an artefact from the past, or a learned theory, but as something concrete, present and engaging. Our pastoral presence in that world must thus serve to show our contemporaries, especially the many people in our day who experience uncertainty and confusion, “that God is near; that in Christ we all belong to one another……… I renew the invitation to make astute use of the unique possibilities offered by modern communications. May the Lord make all of you enthusiastic heralds of the Gospel in the new “agorà” which the current media are opening up.”

Stepping out into this digital world can feel very daunting, but all of us can start to make our first tentative steps. Perhaps you could include a Bible verse in the ‘signature’ of your email? Maybe you could share a spiritual video on Facebook? You could even start a blog, a type of on-line diary, where you can share thoughts on your spiritual journey for others to be edified by.

Lao-tzu said ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’ perhaps today God is calling you to start that journey, and if He is, may God bless you on your travels.

For Christians of all levels of experience Premier Christian Media are hosting the first ‘Christian New Media Conference: Reaching out in a digital age’ on 16th October 2010 in London. Tickets are £25, more information available at www.christiannewmedia.com.

Kevin Bennett, first written for ‘The Papal Visit’ newspaper.

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