In the third session of the first-ever CFC Digital Summit, Ruel Aguirre, Pastoral Training Head of the CFC Global Mission Center, underlined that by virtue of baptism, Catholic Christians are all missionaries, proclaimers of the Good News. Being members of CFC strengthens that missionary call. Citing a 2021 study, which reported that Filipinos spend an average of 4 hours and 15 minutes a day on social media, he proposed looking at the digital world as a geographical area and, thus, as a place to go to on a mission of evangelization.
“What makes man truly human is culture”, Aguirre said. “But while culture is inherited, it also adapts to the changing situations and needs of the times, including in the field of communication,” he added. According to Pope Paul VI, “the split between gospel and culture is without a doubt the drama of our time.” Aguirre noted that this “split” has been widening. As culture adapts and brings about development, it tends to forget Christian values. Today, he said, an individual can spend hours with just a mobile phone, and social media is used to propagate manufactured lies. This use promotes exclusivity instead of inclusivity and tears down instead of builds up a healthy society.
Nonetheless, he stressed that Pope Francis encourages the Catholic laity to be part of the digital world and to use their various gifts to maximize the potential of social media as a pastoral tool for evangelization. According to Aguirre, the use of social media boosts visibility, especially when the mode of engagement is adapted to the target audience. It also builds community, creating a virtual village where one can engage respectfully. Such engagement enriches CFC from within, promoting the community and upholding its values. Finally, it promotes accountability by fostering truthfulness, acknowledging mistakes, and providing useful information.
Pope Francis described communication as having “the power to build bridges, to enable encounter and inclusion, and thus to enrich society.”
“In social media,” Aguirre said, “we have a venue for real, sincere, and authentic encounter.” He gave the following points to consider in our engagement in social media within the context of CFC. First, remember that whatever you post online will always be online; even if it is later deleted, a screenshot of the post could have been taken beforehand. There is also what is called the digital footprint which remains in the worldwide web even if a post is deleted.
“So think and pray before clicking or posting,” Aguirre advised, “especially when the post is about a complaint, disagreement, or unconfirmed information.”
Second, everyone should always post comments and emoticons in a spirit of respect and Christian charity.
Third, social media users should be cautious and prudent in visiting sites/ pages, or in participating in online fora/ groups.
Fourth, everyone must keep in mind that posts, comments, and images can be easily misinterpreted. Lastly, one must seek consent before posting images or videos of other people, especially minors.
Aguirre gave this final reminder: “Before doing anything, ask yourself: ‘Will my engagement reflect my Catholic way of living? Is it pro-God, pro-family, pro-life, pro-poor?’”
“God communicates to each of us,” he said, “and if our engagement in social media allows God’s presence to be experienced by others, then we can respond fully in faith.”
The Digital Summit was held on June 15, 2022 as an opening salvo for the CFC 41st anniversary week-long celebration. (Richie Panganiban-Tolentino)