Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The bishops and social media

A THREE-DAY bishops’ seminar on social media is certainly not a breather from hectic pastoral concerns, especially those from the Visayas and Mindanao who have been grappling with the effects of the recent calamities.  At first blush, though, it may seem like delving into the lighter side of things.   But by reason of social demographics and the current order of things, getting serious with social media may actually be a very serious agenda.           
Time was when some Church leaders shied away from the internet because it was initially perceived as addictive and littered with pornography, gambling and trash that may not be helpful in attaining eternal life.  This perception, of course, did not prosper.  Today, Asia dominates the world’s biggest social networking markets.   And according to unofficial reckoning by netizens themselves, the Philippines still holds the title as the “Social Networking Capital of the World.”  True or not, this, however, will not water down the fact that most Filipinos are into social media. The statistics coming from Facebook and Twitter, for instance, will bear this out.
The Media Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has been locally trailblazing the path of the social media for some years now.  One of its brainchild is Youth Pinoy, an organization of young Filipino Catholics who like to regard themselves as OMG or “online missionaries of God” by solely using social media in their work of evangelization and social advocacy.  They are known, too, for organizing the annual Catholic Social Media Summit which, last November, was graced by the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Msgr. Paul Tighe.    
The bishops’ seminar-workshop on social media that will precede their plenary assembly on January 25-27 at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center will be facilitated by Sean-Patrick Lovett, the vice president of the Centre for Research and Education in Communication (CREC) and the Director of Vatican Radio’s English Programme.  He believes that pastors should be in social media, too.  Paraphrasing the words of Pope Francis on the pastor smelling like sheep, Lovett said in an interview:  “And if the bishops want to be a true pastor, they really need to smell like a sheep, and if the sheep smell like social media, the bishop should smell like social media too."
During the First Catholic Social Media Summit held in Marikina in 2012, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle aptly said:  “The social networking world is a means of bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to a vaster audience.  It is truly an instrument of evangelization; but at the same time it is a field that needs to be evangelized.”  Such being the case, talking about social media is not merely an high-tech expediency as it is really now a pastoral exigency. 

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