On June the 28th, 2011, Pope Benedict XVIth posted the first ever tweet on the internet with the words : “Dear Friends, I just launched www.news.va. Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ! With my prayers and blessings, Benedictus XVI”, on an iPad, ushering a new era of digital information portal for the Vatican.
In recent years, the Vatican has increasingly turned to modern electronic media for dissemination of news including podcasts, internet broadcasts with hookups with different parts of the world, and a more visible presence on the world media, with messages of peace interspersed with social commentary. But is it a sign of the times, that the Vatican is re-structuring ? Vatican expert Bruno Bartoloni, recently commented that the recent reliance on social media by the church was in an effort to directly deliver its message to the world without the involvement of traditional media which has often criticised the messages or selectively presented them in a colourful fashion. In addition,
“The paedophilia scandals of recent years have shocked the Church and have encouraged it to abandon the language of tradition,” to quote Bartoloni.(1)
But with embracing social media, the Church perhaps is not fully aware of the enormous impact it could potentially have over reforming the whole process of religion in our daily lives, a role which it is obligated to fulfill, if it has to claim any degree of moral responsibility towards the well-being of countless believers. So far, there is little evidence that his happening, and sadly, the Vatican continues to use the media for its own purposes of information (or disinformation) dissemination.
Consider the recent postings on the Vatican-run website www.karol-wojtyla.org, on the life and accomplishments of Pope John Paul II, leading to his beatification as a saint on May 01, 2011. The Church still considers that miracles are ‘essential’ to confer sainthood to its modern day popes, and the ‘testimony’ section of the website recalls scores of miracles from immigration, urinary tract infections, terminal cancer, as well as the pope appearing in dreams of patients having high risk surgery.
In 2011, is that responsible behaviour, one might ask. The Pope John Paul II himself had emergency surgery after an assassination attempt, yet he ascribed his lucky escape to the Lady Fatimah (2), a patron saint. He also had a tracheostomy (surgically created hole in the windpipe, after influenza in the last years of his life. To keep on using medical miracles in an official capacity, the Vatican leadership is perhaps degrading its own credibility in a world which is more rational and evidence-based than ever. More importantly, it is disinforming and doing a disservice to humanity, diverting their attention ever further from the real messages of Jesus Christ – service, love and compassion for all.
To embrace rationality to its fullest extent is perhaps the only evolutionary pathway for today’s religions in an increasing science-dominated intellectual landscape and rigid adherence to ancient texts and interpretations written thousands of years ago, which have little relevance to today’s thoughts, can only serve to accelerate the process of cultural obscurity through irrelevance that happens to any movement whose time has passed.
Spiritual and humanitarian concerns, a continuously updated sense of moral values are the only valid reasons for religions to survive, and even move forward in the future.
Otherwise the tweets, the reliance on social media are hollow, purposeless efforts to modernize.
(1) Source Yahoo News : http://news.yahoo.com/vatican-launches-website-popes-first-tweet-091133239.html
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