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Promote Christian values, not divisions, on social media, Vatican says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics should make an "examination of conscience" about how they use social media, how they allow it to influence them and about the opportunities it provides them to share the Gospel, build community and care for others, said the Vatican Dicastery for Communication.

"Unfortunately, the tendency to get carried away in heated and sometimes disrespectful discussions is common with online exchanges," said the dicastery's document, "Toward Full Presence. A Pastoral Reflection on Engagement with Social Media."

"The problem of polemical and superficial, and thus divisive, communication is particularly worrying when it comes from church leadership: bishops, pastors and prominent lay leaders," the document said. "These not only cause division in the community but also give permission and legitimacy for others likewise to promote similar type of communication."

Signed by Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the dicastery, and Msgr. Lucio A. Ruiz, secretary of the office, the document was released at a news conference May 29.

When faced with erroneous or divisive content on social media, the document said, "often the best course of action is not to react, or to react with silence so as not to dignify this false dynamic."

Asked if there was not something more active the dicastery could do, for example, with a bishop acting badly on social media, Ruffini responded that it is not the competency of his office to discipline anyone, but in general on social media it is better not to share or comment on offensive content since it only raises its profile.

Xavière Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, a member of the dicastery, said everyone in the church needs to be educated about social media and learn to discern "when to speak and when not to speak."

While the document argued for the need for Catholics to sometimes take a break from social media to pray, reflect and spend time with others in person, it recognized social media as a vehicle for sharing Gospel values and as daily part of life for millions of people around the world, including many people in developing nations whose only digital access is to social media.

But it also called on Catholics to be fully informed about its pitfalls and recognize that companies claim their platforms were designed "to bring the world closer together, to give everyone the power to create and share ideas, or to give everyone a voice," when, in fact, they are businesses that make money by using an individual's posts to target advertising to them and by selling their profiles and data.

The document quoted an adage that says, "'If you are not paying for it, you are the product.' In other words, it is not free: we are paying with minutes of our attention and bytes of our data."

People also must be aware, it said, that the history of who they follow, what they look at and what they search for feed into algorithms that increasingly narrow the posts, search results and advertising they receive.

"The consequence of this increasingly sophisticated personalization of results is a forced exposure to partial information, which corroborates our own ideas, reinforces our beliefs, and thus leads us into an isolation of 'filter bubbles,'" the document said.

The dicastery called on Catholics to burst those bubbles by purposefully expanding their sources of information and by trying to understand people with whom they have differences.

The growing sophistication of artificial intelligence, fake news and "deep fake" images and videos also require education and a critical look at what people find online, the document said.

Asked, for example, about the AI-generated photo of Pope Francis in a puffy white jacket and jeweled crucifix that went viral in March, Msgr. Ruiz told reporters that the dicastery is studying ways to give people "the resources to know when they are seeing a real photo, real video or real audio of the Holy Father and not something else."

In calling Catholics to make an "examination of conscience" about their use of social media, the document said that self-examination should start with how it impacts "three vital relationships: with God, our neighbor and the environment around us."

With the document, the dicastery launched a website -- -- where people can download the document, find a study guide to it and join a "community of faith communicators" to reflect and share best practices.


Pope, in interview, describes unborn child as 'a living being, I'm not saying a person' (CWN)

In a brief but wide-ranging interview with Julio Vaqueiro of Telemundo, Pope Francis discussed migration, reflected on ecclesial reform, recalled his recent meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and spoke about the prevalence of abuse in families when he was asked whether there is a link between celibacy and sexual abuse.

'Bishop of the peripheries' named Archbishop of Buenos Aires (CNA)

On May 26, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Mario Aurelio Poli, 75, as Archbishop of Buenos Aires (Argentina) and has named Bishop Jorge Ignacio García Cuerva, 55, of Río Gallegos as the new archbishop. In March 2013, the Pontiff, formerly Archbishop of Buenos Aires, had appointed Poli as his successor.

Pope reflects on the Catholic imagination (Vatican Press Office)

On May 27, Pope Francis received participants in a conference organized by La Civiltà Cattolica and by Georgetown University. The conference’s theme was “The Global Aesthetics of the Catholic Imagination.”

The Pope told the assembled artists, “This, then, is the challenge facing the Catholic imagination in our time; it is a challenge entrusted to you: not to ‘explain’ the mystery of Christ, which is ultimately unfathomable, but to enable us to touch him, to feel his closeness, to let us see him as alive and to open our eyes to the beauty of his promises. “

Pope accepts Strasbourg archbishop's resignation (Vatican Press Office)

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Archbishop Luc Ravel, 66, of Strasbourg. The French archbishop, accused of having an autocratic management style, had tendered his resignation at the Vatican’s request following an apostolic visitation, but defended his tenure.

New Vatican document offers guidance for use of social media [News Analysis] (CWN)

News analysis by Phil Lawler

Pope again condemns proselytism (Vatican Press Office)

Pope Francis renewed his denunciation of “proselytism,” and repeated a story about his rebuke to a woman for converting children, during a May 29 audience with members of the Barnabite order.

“Be careful to distinguish apostolic action from proselytism; we do not proselytize,” the Pope said.

The Pope recounted a story that he has told in the past, about a woman who introduced him to two young people who had entered the Catholic faith. He said: “I was angry, you know, and I said, ‘You haven’t converted anyone, you lack respect for these people: you have not accompanied them, you have proselytized, and this is not evangelizing.’”

St. Louis archdiocese, Columbus diocese closing parishes (Post-Dispatch)

The Archdiocese of St. Louis will close 35 parishes of its 178 parishes in a major reorganization, giving new assignments to 155 priests.

The reorganization plan was introduced by Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski in a restructuring program entitled “All Things New.”

In Columbus, Ohio, Bishop Earl Fernandes announced plans to close 15 parishes, out of 104 currently in the diocese.

Italian president awarded Paul VI prize (Vatican News)

Pope Francis has awarded the Paul VI prize, given to individuals who “have contributed to the growth of the religious meaning in the world,” to Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella.

In presenting the award— on May 29, the feast of St. Paul VI— the Pope spoke about the message of Vatican II, encouraging lay activity to transform the secular world with the message of the Gospel.

Pope encourages African youth to conquer continent's problems (Vatican News)

In a private audience with young people from Africa, who were in Rome for the celebration of Africa Day, Pope Francis said: “Never give up on your dreams, never completely bury a calling, and never accept defeat.”

The Pontiff acknowledged that young people in Africa face serious difficulties, but encouraged them to have confidence and persever to overcome those problems. He said:

Your beloved African continent is facing enormous challenges such as terrorism, bad governance, corruption, massive youth unemployment, migration, conflicts between communities and the climate and food crisis, among others. In this context, you may feel helpless and discouraged, and think that your future is bleak and without prospects. Yet you are young and richly talented, you have lofty ambitions and great dreams: pursue them!