EVANGELIZING THE DIGITAL CONTINENT
By Monsignor JOSÉ GOMEZ, Archbishop of Los Angeles
Are you on Facebook? I am now.
Not long after I put up my “public figure” page on Facebook, more than 800 people have “liked” it — from all over the world.
Some are old friends, others are new friends. It is exciting to meet so many people who want to share their faith in Jesus Christ and their love for his Church. Already I have new people to pray for and new people to pray for me and our great Archdiocese.
This new world of social media, mobile devices, and digital technologies, is very interesting to me.
I started my Facebook page, and my new Twitter account, because as a bishop I am called to be a servant of souls and a servant of the Gospel. The Church must always be where her people are. More and more, our people are on the Internet.
They are using these new media and technology to build friendships and community, to express their spiritual needs, and to nourish their faith.
I have long believed that as a Church we need to increase our pastoral presence in this digital “environment.”
The Church has always found ways to use new media to spread the Gospel — beginning with the printing press, then radio, television and cable, and now the Internet.
The early Christians were able to spread the Gospel so rapidly because the Roman Empire had a vast network of roads. This enabled missionaries to travel to every part of the known world to preach the good news face-to-face.
I believe we have a similar opportunity now in the avenues opened up by the Internet.
Pope Benedict XVI has described the wo
rld of on-line communications and social networking as a “digital continent.” That is a powerful image for us to reflect on.
As the Church sends missionaries to every continent, we now need to send missionaries to proclaim the Gospel in this new digital continent also.
This is not only the work of bishops and priests. It is the work of everyone in the Church. We are all called to evangelize this new “continent.”
This new continent has its own landscape, its areas of danger and unknown. The people who “live” in this continent have their own languages, customs and cultures. We have to learn all about this continent in order to evangelize it.
The message of the Gospel never changes no matter where it is preached or what media we use to deliver it. But we need to always be looking for the “language” that best communicates our Lord’s saving truths.
I plan to use my Facebook page as a way to listen and to talk to people. Because of my pastoral duties, it won’t be possible for me to respond personally to every message that people post on my digital “wall.” But I have already begun to post messages and to pray for those who write to me.
I hope that through sharing my homilies and these columns I write and my reflections on my ministry, I can help build a “virtual” community of genuine faith and prayer.
I want to use this new media to help people become more aware of God’s presence in their lives. I want to help them appreciate the Church’s deep spiritual wisdom and the practical relevance of her teachings.
Many people are concerned about the possibly harmful aspects of this new media. I am too. And I plan to use my “new pulpit” on Facebook to speak about these things from time to time.
But our first task as a Church is to claim this new media for the service of the Word of God.
In his preaching, St. Paul speaks of Christ this way: “To us has been sent the message of this salvation” (Acts 13:26).
We need to use this new media to proclaim Jesus as the one “message” that can truly change people’s lives. He is the Word that everyone is waiting to receive.
Let us pray for one another as I venture into this new digital “continent.”
I hope all of you who are on Facebook will join me. I will be offering regular updates of my “status” and invitations to prayer and spiritual growth.
In two weeks, I leave on pilgrimage to Rome to receive my Archbishop’s pallium from Pope Benedict XVI. I am planning to use Facebook to update you often during this time of grace for our Archdiocese and for me.
So let us ask the intercession of Our Lady of the Angels, that all of us may use every medium we have to deliver the message that salvation is found in her only Son, Jesus Christ.
Follow Archbishop Gomez at: http://www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez or http://www.twitter.com/ArchbishopGomez