It seems that every Catholic blog and news outlet is reporting that Pope Benedict recently encouraged priests to be involved with online media in order to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’ve seen headlines to the effect “Pope to priests: get a blog!” and “Pope urges priests to go online”. It is true that the Pope made such remarks, but I think we would do well to also see in what context the Pope made this recommendation (emphasis added):
The Pope added, however, that “priests present in the world of digital communications should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart, their closeness to Christ.”
“Thanks to the new communications media,” he said, “the Lord can walk the streets of our cities and, stopping before the threshold of our homes and our hearts.”
“With the Gospels in our hands and in our hearts,” the Pontiff noted, “we must reaffirm the need to continue preparing ways that lead to the Word of God, while being at the same time constantly attentive to those who continue to seek.”
“Indeed,” he added, “we should encourage their seeking as a first step of evangelization.”
The Holy Father affirmed that “no door can or should be closed to those who, in the name of the risen Christ, are committed to drawing near to others.”
He pointed out that “the ultimate fruitfulness” of ministry “comes from Christ himself, encountered and listened to in prayer; proclaimed in preaching and lived witness; and known, loved and celebrated in the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation.“
The online world is a wonderful way for priests and all Catholics to preach the good news. But we must always remember that it is but the first step in evangelization. No one can become Catholic or follow the Catholic Faith entirely online: he must directly interact with priests and other Catholics in order to grow in his faith and live it in the way Jesus commanded.
It is vitally important that priests are involved in online work, but I’d rather have a technologically-clueless holy priest than a web-saavy but spiritually immature priest any day. Let us pray that our priests are first holy and only then adept in the online world.